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High horizons: response of hatchling flatback marine turtles to artificial light pollution

Published this month in the international journal Marine Ecological Progress Series, the authors present their findings regarding flatback hatchling response to artificial light glow on the nesting beach at Barrow Island, Western Australia.

Artificial lighting generated by industrial activities is recognised to be a major pressure on marine turtles in WA. Nesting beaches used by flatback turtles in the North West Shelf were recently found to be some of the most light-exposed nesting areas in Australia (Kamrowski et al. 2012), and glow from indirect sources of artificial light has been shown to influence hatchling sea-finding behaviour (Kamrowski et al. 2014). Developments located in close proximity to turtle nesting beaches are expected to manage lighting to prevent luminaires being directly visible from the beach, yet industrial facilities often have numerous lights which create a glow visible over large distances.

In this study, flatback hatchlings were exposed to wavelengths and intensities of light typically found in industrial settings, with the lights positioned behind horizons of different heights. The study found that light glow visible behind a high horizon did not interfere with hatchling sea-finding, but the same glow placed behind a low elevation was disruptive.

Few studies have assessed flatback hatchling response to light glow at the nesting beach and the authors address a key information gap, providing regulators, Industry, and practitioners with much needed tools to provide more effective management of artificial light from industrial operations occurring adjacent to marine turtle nesting habitat.

To request a copy of the article email Dr Ruth Kamrowski .

Citation: Pendoley, K.L. & Kamrowski R.L. (2015) Influence of horizon elevation on the sea-finding behaviour of hatchling flatback turtles exposed to artificial light glow. Marine Ecological Progress Series, 529: 279–288

For information regarding artificial light, industrial development, and hatchling orientation, or to discuss artificial light measurement, modelling, or management on your project visit our light assessment webpage or email Dr Kellie Pendoley.