Dr Col Limpus performing an ultrasound: Picture: Qld Government
Dr Col Limpus performing an ultrasound: Picture: Qld Government

Our hatchlings can’t handle the heat

THE above average temperatures and drought has already taken its toll, and now it's also impacting our turtles.

On the shores of Mon Repos, Dr Col Limpus said the loose sand from hot and dry conditions made it harder for turtles to construct their nests, and for future turtles, the issue lies in the hot sand.

Which is why Dr Limpus has been experimenting with different means to cool the nesting areas.

"The sand where the eggs are laid is the issue, that's going to be affecting the incubation and hatchling production," he said.

"We've got heatwave conditions, extremely elevated temperatures compared to what we have normally leading up to this time of year.

"When you've got hot sand you're going to get increased failure to hatch or increased death of hatchlings as they are digging their way to the surface.

"So we're still getting hatchlings produced, but we're not getting as many as we would normally get for this time of year."

Dr Limpus said this wasn't something just at Mon Repos, rather it was a consequences of a "weather phenomenon" that's effecting the broader community.

"We've got farmers that have got crops failing, towns with failed water supply, we've got bushfires - heavens, I don't like to talk this way, but this is the reality of this particular year with abnormal drought conditions and elevated temperatures" Dr Limpus said.

The hot dry sand leads to a reduction in the hatchling production and how long it goes for, Dr Limpus said depends on the rain.

"If we get rain that cools the sand, everything will come back to normal and we can have normal hatchling production for the rest of the season," he said.

"At the moment we've only had about 50 clutches hatch, we're expecting about 1200 clutches laid for the season; so it's very early in the season but we're looking at atypical hatching success for this time of the year."

He said while the number of clutches hatching remains normal, there's not as many hatching out of each nest.

Dr Limpus said there were similar consequences being recorded for the hatchling production of the threatened freshwater turtles.

"It's a general phenomenon, it's not localised to little tiny areas," he said.

Dr Limpus said they were now running experiments to see if they could find options to try cool beaches or nesting areas.

"We've got shaded areas where we're placing clutches to look at the consequences of incubation in slightly cooler sand," he said.

"We don't know what the results will be at this stage in terms of how effective this sort of thing is as a management tool," he said.

"But we're not sitting back … we're got a problem, we're looking for solutions.

"The best solution would be to have a good widespread rain up and down the coast."