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Ursinus College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Sea turtles play a critical role in marine ecosystems all over the world, including the Caribbean Sea. However, many sea turtle species are under threat due to anthropogenic impacts, such as habitat destruction and fisheries bycatch. This has caused significant declines in sea turtle populations around the world, which in turn has impacted marine ecosystems where sea turtles play critical roles in proper ecosystem functioning. A crucial part of the sea turtle life cycle that has been threatened by anthropogenic factors is nesting. Sea turtles rely on unspoiled beaches with particular physical characteristics for laying their eggs. One of the most important nesting sites for leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in the Caribbean is Armila Beach, a five-kilometer long beach in the Guna Yala Comarca in Panama close to the border with Colombia. Since the physical characteristics of beaches are of key importance to sea turtles, the goal of the study was to determine if there was a possible association between specific beach characteristics and the number of D. coriacea nests found at different sections of the beach. Using the Nesting Beach Indicator tool, 100-meter sections, the length of Armila’s 5km beach was divided into fifty (50) one hundred meter (100m) sections and each section was assessed for its physical characteristics such as elevation, slope, sand type and width. It was found that D. coriacea strongly preferred to nest on sections of the beach where sediment composition was primarily sand as opposed to gravel or rocks. Apart from sediment type, only beach width was found to have a significant effect on the number of nests present.


Biodiversity | Biostatistics | Climate | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Marine Biology | Oceanography | Zoology


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