Establishing baseline monitoring data for sea turtle nesting beaches with varying anthropogenic usage in St. Johns County, Florida
The Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research property of Summer Haven serves as a nesting habitat for various species of sea turtles. The 0.65 acre parcel of land extends from the beachfront on the east, to estuary habitat on the west and traverses both State Road A1A and Old A1A Road. The purpose of this study was twofold: 1) to characterize the property and establish baseline data for long term monitoring, and 2) to compare the nesting habitat of adjacent beaches that have distinctly different historical patterns of anthropogenic use. Beach topographic profiles were recorded and sand was characterized by grain size, and carbon dioxide efflux and water vapor concentrations were determined by infrared gas analysis (IRGA).
Sand grain size varied among the beaches, with beaches where driving is permitted containing the highest percent by mass of very fine sand and protected beaches containing the highest percent by mass of coarse and medium sand. Grain size for the Archie Carr study beach fell between these two extremes. The Archie Carr beach had significantly (p<0.001) lower in situ carbon dioxide efflux and was grouped into a separate homogenous subset via post-hoc tests. The results of this study are important in that they will serve as a baseline for continued monitoring of sea turtle nesting habitat in an area that is experiencing substantial development and increased human use.