Endangered Sea Turtles Flee Light Pollution

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A new study finds that light pollution limits nesting areas for endangered sea turtles.

By Candace Pearson

Loggerhead_Turtle.jpg

The Loggerhead turtle was one of two endangered species found to cluster nesting sites away from coastal light pollution.

Photo: Damien du Toit; License: CC BY 2.0

Two species of endangered sea turtles in the Mediterranean were more likely to choose nesting areas under increasingly hard-to-find dark skies, according to new research published in the journal Biological Conservation. Light pollution has long been known to cause problems for hatchlings—city lights make them more visible to predators and lead them in the opposite direction of the water—but this study is the first to show impacts for adult turtles. The newfound preference suggests that light pollution is affecting the population of these nocturnal nesters by limiting suitable nesting spots.

Researchers made their findings by comparing nesting maps of coastal areas in Israel with satellite imagery of light pollution. The same technique could be used worldwide to help conservationists identify where to place reserves or to strengthen light-pollution ordinances. The researchers note that their methodology does not require extensive on-the-ground studies and may make it easier to develop comprehensive policy.

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June 27, 2013