Sea Turtles As the ocean temperature and sea levels rise due to climate change, the sea turtles’ nesting beaches will be greatly affected, making it difficult for turtles to find nesting beaches and also threatening their genetic diversity.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are one of the Earth's most ancient creatures, having been around for 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. Sea turtles are found all over the world and migrate hundreds of miles ever year, between their nesting beaches and feeding grounds, to survive and reproduce. Currently, there are seven species still living on this earth. However, six out of the seven species are endangered.

HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLE: One of the critically endangered species of sea turtles, the hawksbill sea turtle gets its name from their sharp, curved beak which resembles the beak of a hawk.

Why are sea turtles endangered?

"[Green turtles face] a number of threats, including illegal poaching and unbalanced sex ratios caused by warmer temperatures in nesting areas." -national geographic

First off, human activities are the main reason for the initial endangerment of all species of sea turtles. Almost all species of sea turtles are endangered. Sea turtles suffer from poaching because of humans slaughtering them for their eggs, meat, skin and shells. Along with that, they are often accidentally captured in fishing gear.

However, climate change also plays a big role in the endangerment of sea turtles because they face habitat and nesting site destruction due to global warming. Rising sand temperatures affects the sex of hatchlings, altering their reproduction rates.

SEA TURTLE POACHING: Over 500 sea turtles (over 300 of which were already dead) were found in a Chinese vessel. The live turtles were released in the Puerto Princesa Bay.

The loss of nesting beaches

Magnetic maps of their hatching site are ingrained into sea turtles' minds, allowing them to be able to return to the exact location at which they hatched, even decades later, to repeat their ancient nesting ritual. Due to global warming, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising, which affects the nesting beaches at which sea turtles lay their eggs. Some of these beaches are disappearing under the rising sea level, making it difficult, if not impossible, for sea turtles to make their way back to these nesting beaches.

The threat to genetic diversity

The incubation temperature for turtles produces roughly equal numbers of male and female hatchlings. With the rising temperature of the sand in the nesting beaches, the incubation temperature rises, causing the ratio to no longer be 1:1. This could cause the population to plummet due to an abnormally large amount of a certain gender.

“The shift in our climate is shifting turtles as well, because as the temperature of their nests change, so do their reproduction patterns." -Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

What can we do?

The best thing we can do is to protect sea turtles from already known harms, such as poaching and fisheries. We can also take steps into reducing our carbon footprint in order to combat global warming and prevent the sea level as well as temperatures of the nesting beach from rising too significantly.

“To help sea turtle populations cope with unknown future threats, one of the best things we can do is protect them from existing known harm — fisheries mortality being one of the most grave.” -National Geographic
With the major increase in temperatures in recent years, is it too late now to prevent sea turtles from going extinct? What more can we do now?

Works Cited

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