The most recent climate change projections show a global increase in temperatures along with precipitation changes throughout the 21st century. However, regional projections do not always match global projections and species with global distributions may exhibit varying regional susceptibility to climate change. Here we show the effect of local climatic conditions on the hatchling output of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) at four nesting sites encompassing the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We found a heterogeneous effect of climate. Hatchling output increased with long-term precipitation in areas with dry climatic conditions (Playa Grande, Pacific Ocean and Sandy Point, Caribbean Sea), but the effect varied in areas where precipitation was high (Pacuare, Caribbean Sea) and was not detected at the temperate site (Maputaland, Indian Ocean). High air temperature reduced hatchling output only at the area experiencing seasonal droughts (Playa Grande). Climatic projections showed a drastic increase in air temperature and a mild decrease in precipitation at all sites by 2100. The most unfavorable conditions were projected for Sandy Point where hatching success has already declined over time along with precipitation levels. The heterogeneous effect of climate may lead to local extinctions of leatherback turtles in some areas but survival in others by 2100.
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Valiulis JM. Robinson NJ
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