Climate Change And its Impact on Sea Turtles

Global warming is a phenomenon that effects the entire planet; today however, I will be focusing on the effects global warming is having on sea turtles.

Sea turtles utilise both marine and terrestrial habitats, this makes them twice as vulnerable to global warming. Firstly, I’ll discuss the effects rising sea levels are having on sea turtles. Sea turtles hatch on sandy beaches in the tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. This same beach will be used by the turtle throughout its life to lay its own eggs, rising sea levels threaten to destroy these beaches (Threats to Sea Turtles | Climate Change | Sea Turtle Conservancy, 2017).

Secondly, sea turtles have their sex determined by environmental factors, eggs that exceed a 30 degrees heat threshold in the sand they’re laid in will become female, whilst eggs which remain below that 30 degrees will become male. A real worry here is that since the climate is getting warmer, more and more of the eggs will become female leading to less genetic diversity in sea turtle populations. Furthermore, warming waters lead to coral bleaching, this affects the turtles since corals are a big part of their diet, this could lead to sea turtles experiencing a lack of food (Threats to Sea Turtles | Climate Change | Sea Turtle Conservancy, 2017).

Climate change has also been linked to increased storm intensity, this further affects the beaches that the turtles rely on since they are being eroded away much faster than they used to. Yet another concern is the influx of fresh water from melting ice caps which risks to disrupt ocean currents which turtles rely on to navigate the oceans. The warmer waters also impact other animals in the ocean, prey that turtles used to be able to rely on for food alongside corals may migrate to cooler waters outside of the sea turtles range and new predators which are less susceptible to the warmer waters may migrate into the warmer waters and threaten the sea turtles (Global Warming & Sea Turtles, 2017).

Sea turtles have survived previous climatic changes, however the additional anthropogenic pressures (pressures from humans) may be too much for them this time. There are ways which sea turtles could adapt, for example, they could change their nesting sites, nesting season or nest depth (How Will Sea Turtles Cope with Climate Change | M. Fuentes & L. Hawkes)

More importantly however, there are ways we can help:

  • Recycle as much as possible
  • Plant vegetation along beaches to provide better nesting habitats
  • Look for alternate energy sources
  • Write to law makers to encourage more efficient use of energy
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