Climate-mediated population dynamics for the world’s most endangered sea turtle species
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Climate-mediated population dynamics for the world’s most endangered sea turtle species

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  • Journal Title:
    Scientific Reports
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    Restricted range, and subsequently small population size, render Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) the most globally endangered sea turtle species. For at least two decades preceding conservation, high egg harvest rates reduced annual cohort recruitment. Despite > 50 years of dedicated conservation, annual nest counts remain well below a landmark 1947 level. Prior studies attribute less robust than anticipated nest count rebound to multiple contemporary concerns; however, analyses herein convey optimistic interpretation. In objective 1, improved analysis of the ratio of hatchlings to nests since 1966 suggested age structure stabilization as a more likely basis for nest count trends after 2005 than density-dependent effects. In objective 2, multiple regression revealed a lagged (≤ 13 years prior) climate influence on nests (adj. r2 = 0.82) and hatchlings per nest (adj. r2 = 0.94) during 2006–2022. In objectives 3 and 4, a simulator modeled population response to changes in a suite of demographic rates including survival. Across 32 models, high survival and dynamic cohort sex ratio, sexual maturity age, and the ratio of clutch frequency to remigration interval best explained nesting trends during 1966–2022. These novel findings provide alternative perspective for evaluating species recovery criteria and in turn refine future nest trend expectations.
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    Scientific Reports, 13(1)
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    CC BY
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