The Turtles

The Turtles

Animals are being affected globally in a variety of ways due to the induced warming and environmental changes from climate change. One magnificent species, certainly not exempt from the consequences of CC, is the sea turtle.

Not only are they curious creatures and are subject to being victims of the plastic infestation in the oceans, but they are very particular animals, and their biological idiosyncrasies and necessary conditions to survive are steadily becoming under very serious threat. The byproducts of climate change are primarily affecting their nesting behaviors, and that as a whole is threatening the entire future of this species.

Turtles require very specific conditions when nesting. They need the sand to be certain temperatures for effective incubation of their eggs; the sex of the turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand in which they are incubated, and higher sand temperatures (as they are currently trending given the warming of the planet) will yield a far larger ratio of female to male hatchlings. According to Oceana, if we warm a full one degree Celsius (which we are very much on track to do), entire southern populations in the U.S. of these turtles will “become ultra-biased towards female”. That certainly isn’t a recipe for a bountiful future.

The very sand that they use for their nesting habitat is also under serious threat. The gradually rising sea levels aren’t just affecting humans (and polar bears), but are receding the space that sea turtles have to lay the eggs on beach territory, and this will quickly bottleneck their species if they find they are severely lacking in space to hatch their eggs. The most vulnerable of these beach nesting habitats, in fact, are located on the east coast of the United States, and so we will be able to see these impacts first hand on our home front. Incredibly disheartening, I think.

These less-than-ideal nesting conditions lead turtles to migrate elsewhere in search of suitable conditions, but with climate change severely messing with the course of ocean currents (think of the ones in Finding Nemo), the turtles will be forced to alter their migration course and potentially completely change their nesting timing to accommodate the changing marine conditions.

We of course cannot directly affect the amount of beachfront space available for the turtles to nest, nor can we really change the rising temperatures of the sand, or the oceanic currents. Not alone, at least. But with global efforts, slicing of carbon production, and being mindful of the myriad of ecosystems around us supporting thousands of species and the miracle of life, it’s possible that there is a future where these little turtles will no longer have to worry about where their next migration will have to be, or if they’ll have enough space to nest.

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