Mitigating the effects of climate change on the nests of sea turtles with artificial irrigation

Christopher R. Gatto, Sean A. Williamson, Richard D. Reina

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


For sea turtles, like many oviparous species, increasing temperatures during development threaten to increase embryonic mortality, alter offspring quality, and potentially create suboptimal primary sex ratios. Various methods are being implemented to mitigate the effects of climate change on reproductive success, but these methods, such as breeding programs, translocations, and shading, are often invasive and expensive. Irrigation is an alternative strategy for cooling nests that, depending on location, can be implemented relatively quickly and cheaply. However, multiple factors, including ambient conditions, nest substrate, and species characteristics, can influence irrigation success. Additionally, irrigation can vary in duration, frequency, and the volume of water applied to nests, which influences the cooling achieved and embryonic survival. Thus, it is critical to understand how to maximize cooling and manage risks before implementing irrigation as a nest-cooling strategy. We reviewed the literature on nest irrigation to examine whether artificial irrigation is feasible as a population management tool. Key factors that affected cooling were the volume of water applied and the frequency of applications. Embryonic responses varied with species, ambient conditions, and the timing of irrigation during development. Nest inundation was the key risk to a successful irrigation regime. Future irrigation regimes must identify clear targets, either primary or adult sex ratios, that maximize population viability. Monitoring population responses and adjusting the irrigation regime in response to population characteristics will be critical. Most studies reported on the manipulation of only one or two variables, further research is required to understand how altering multiple factors in an irrigation regime influences the cooling achieved and embryonic responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14044
Number of pages21
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • cambio climático
  • climate change
  • conservación
  • cooling conservation
  • desarrollo embrionario
  • embryonic development
  • enfriamiento
  • irrigación
  • irrigation
  • nest
  • nido
  • oviparous
  • ovíparo
  • riego
  • watering

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