At the August 4th Sanibel Council meeting, James Evans, that island’s Director of Natural Resources, informed the council that erosion caused by that weather event caused the destruction of around 46 sea turtle nests on Sanibel and Captiva islands.
Kelly Sloan of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation spoke with the Sun Bay Paper this week to put the impact of these lost nests into perspective.
“Storms and hurricanes can greatly decrease the hatching success for the season,” Sloan said. “However, we do have about 636 nests on the beach right now, and a lot of them are still hatching. We’re still hopeful that it will be a successful season even though we completely lost those 46 nests in the past storm. We won’t be able to quantify the impact until we inventory all the nests that were incubating during the storm.” Sloan mentioned that additional nests could have been lost due to being under standing water or having groundwater come up from beneath them as the storm saturated the beaches. This excess water can drown the embryos.
Sloan is optimistic, though, that the sea turtles will remain resilient nesters in that area despite the losses. Not only were there a large number of nests on Sanibel and Captiva, but most sea turtles lay multiple clutches per season.
“Sea Turtles have pretty strong nest site fidelity,” Sloan said. “Despite one bad year of storms, I think they’ll keep coming back.” She did have one caveat for that statement. “If there’s a big change in the beach profile that creates a big escarpment, that may make it more difficult for turtles to successfully lay nests. That might cause them to shift (sites) a little bit, but probably not too far.” An escarpment is a place where the elevation of the land changes suddenly, and one did form on Captiva as a result of the storms.