Although barrier island beaches provide important nesting habitat for sea turtles, they are constantly changing. To determine how nesting sea turtles have responded to this dynamic environment, we assessed: 1) wind, current, and tidal patterns and changes in beach profiles, 2) sea turtle nesting patterns, and 3) success of turtle nests deposited along 5 km of beach on Cape San Blas, Florida, an extremely dynamic barrier beach in northwest Florida. From 1998 to 2000, nesting turtles were tagged, nests were monitored, and hatching success was determined. Throughout this study, West beach lost ∼ 5 m of sand while East beach gained ∼ 4 m; however 61% of nests were deposited on West beach and 39% on East beach. Hatchling emergence success did not differ between beaches. Wind direction influenced current direction and sand movement and affected the number of nests deposited along East beach but not on West beach. Nearly all nests (98%) oviposited on both beaches were deposited during a rising tide. Although West beach is narrow and eroding, the steep slope may enable nesting turtles to expend less energy to reach higher nesting sites while still providing successful nests. Nesting on a rising tide and using offshore currents during the internesting period may assist this effort.
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Vol. 6 • No. 2