Green Sea Turtle Nesting Trends

Tracks on the beach leading from the water to the dunes from a sea turtle dragging its body across the sand. Sand dunes and a rainbow are in the background.
Green sea turtle tracks leading to the dunes at Padre Island National Seashore.

NPS photo.

Researchers at the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery believe it is critical to learn more about the nesting habits of green sea turtles in order to aid with the management of this threatened species that visits our beaches. Green sea turtles have nested in south Texas in limited numbers, with the first scientifically documented nest in 1987 (Shaver 1989, Shaver et al. 2019). Nesting is low in Texas, with lower increases in nesting, compared to other Gulf of Mexico nesting beaches. However, since 2011, there has been a substantial increase in green sea turtle nests found at Padre Island National Seashore (Figure 1). In 2017, there were 28 nests located, a record number. Subsequently, in 2020, the record was broken with 35 nests found at the Seashore. Without historical data, however, it is unknown whether this nesting population is rebuilding from an exploited, once abundant nesting population or represents a spread of nesting from Mexico. By analyzing green sea turtle nesting data from south Texas, temporal and spatial distribution trends were defined (Shaver et al. 2020). Results indicate most nesting activity occurred on federally protected land (Padre Island National Seashore and Laguna Atascosa and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges). Additionally, nesting at these locations have a higher success rate than those not located on federally protected lands. This research will be used to establish a baseline to compare future green turtle nesting patterns in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. This analysis is vital for evaluating population status and developing future monitoring strategies and management actions to aid with recovery efforts for this threatened species.

 
A bar graph showing number of sea turtle nests increasing over time.
Figure 1. Annual numbers of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests documented in Texas from 1987 to 2019 (non-nesting emergences not included). NPI = North Padre Island outside of PAIS, PAIS = Padre Island National Seashore, NWR = Laguna Atascosa and Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuges, SPI = South Padre Island outside of a NWR. Figure reproduced from Shaver et al. (2020)  To access this publication, click on the image.

NPS Image.

 

Literature Cited:

Shaver, D.J. 1989. Green sea turtle geographic distribution. Herpetological Review. 20(1):14.

Shaver, D.J., H.R. Frandsen, J.S. Walker, M.A. Montello, S. Thurman, C.J. Nairn, B.M. Shamblin, P.H. Dutton, and A. Frey. 2019. Chelonia mydas (Green sea turtle). Nesting Behavior. Herpetological Review 50(3):555-556.

Shaver D.J., H.R. Frandsen, J.A. George, and C. Gredzens. 2020. Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Nesting underscores the importance of protected areas in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Frontiers in Marine Science. 7:673. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00673

 

Last updated: December 3, 2020

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