Effects of Exposed Pilings on Sea Turtle Nesting Activity at Melbourne Beach, Florida

Sarah Bouchard, Kathleen Moran, Manjula Tiwari, Daniel Wood, Alan Bolten, Peter Eliazar, Karen Bjorndal

Abstract


Beach stabilization and nourishment are critical needs in Florida and along much of the U.S. coast. Because offshore sand resources are diminishing, there is much interest in the installation of beach structures for stabilization and nourishment projects. The STABLERâ„¢ Disc System (Shoreline Reclamation Inc., Manasquan, NJ) is an example of one such structure in which a series of cement discs is anchored into the beach by pilings. When functioning properly, the discs are buried by the accretion of sand, and only the pilings are exposed. Before any structure can be installed into Florida beaches, however, its impact on sea turtle nesting should be assessed. This study investigated the effects of exposed pilings on sea turtle nesting activity. Artificial pilings constructed from PVC pipe were installed on Melbourne Beach, Florida, and nesting activity was monitored in areas with and without pilings. Nesting activity decreased significantly in the presence of pilings. However, the installation of structures remains an option on sea turtle nesting beaches because some nesting continued to occur. Further research is needed on the effect of exposed pilings on hatchling orientation.


Keywords


Caretta caretta; Chelonia mydas; beach nourishment; beach stabilization; erosion; green turtle; loggerhead sea turtle; nesting disturbance

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