Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are endangered throughout their range. To protect these animals, research is needed to develop conservation programs that protect the turtles during all of their life activities, including foraging, breeding, nesting, and hatching. The purpose of this study was to focus on issues related to nesting by determining whether environmental and climatic factors influence nesting for female leatherback sea turtles. A variety of climatic and environmental samples were collected during the nesting season from May to July 2008. Data were collected during nesting events and nonnesting events for comparison. Leatherback sea turtles were found to be significantly more likely to nest during the later lunar phases (P = 0.001) and when cloud cover was low (<50%) over the natal beaches (P = 0.02). Sand conductivity was significantly lower (P = 0.008) at the nesting level (0.01 μS/cm) of the sand compared with the surface sand (0.09 μS/cm). There were also significant differences in the pH (P = 0.001) of the sand taken at control surfaces and nesting surfaces, along with significant differences between the control samples taken from nest depth compared to turtle nests in pH (P = 0.020), temperature (P = 0.037), and sand grain size (P = 0.001). These findings suggest that select climatic and environment factors do vary between nesting and nonnesting sites in the leatherback sea turtle, and it is possible that these differences could ultimately influence when and where the females deposit their eggs. This information should be considered when developing conservation plans for the leatherback sea turtle, including habitat management and personnel use during the nesting season.
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