The broad reach of environmental forcing in marine turtle populations

Kyle S. Van Houtan, Director of Science

Monterey Bay Aquarium


Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Pacific Forum—11:00 a.m.

Climate regulates marine biodiversity by directing ecosystem state, biogeography, community dynamics, and recruitment processes. Sea turtles, like many marine species, range over large geographical distances which expose them to different ecological phenomena throughout development. This spatial and demographic structure, once understood, is key for understanding climatic influences to population dynamics as it can be applied both to interpret historical abundance and to forecast future trajectories. It is therefore strategically important to link climate to specific aspects of organismal biology over the empirical record in order to manage for climate change. Here I will address how my research program has directly linked several key sea turtle population processes to climate. Additionally, I will derive how sea turtle life history traits may exacerbate their exposure to climate change impacts. All species are affected by climate. However, life history approaches involving high fecundity and low offspring survival are more sensitive to environmental variability and more at risk from climate change. As a result, the impacts of climate change—over and above seasonal and spatial habitat shifts—will broadly influence sea turtles, as well as those species that share similar life traits like fish, mollusks, and arthropods.

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Next: June 22, Tara Brown


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