The reality of Global Climate Change is obviously upon us. Its potential adverse impacts on plants and animals cannot be overemphasized. One of the most endangered species of our time due to this phenomenon are the sea turtles. As weather conditions continue to change, the extinction of sea turtles and many other species in the next few decades is becoming imminent.
Global Climate Change has been attributed to several factors ranging from burning of fossil fuels to deforestation among several other human factors. These factors contribute to the increase in concentration of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to the retention of heat by planet earth. The major effect of this is what is known as Global Warming which is evident in several environmental phenomena such as flooding and melting of the polar ice caps.
Altogether, there are currently seven species of sea turtles. Each of these species run the risk of becoming extinct due to Global Climate Change. Generally, sea turtles are affected by climate change in a number of ways. Some of these impacts with critical consequences are highlighted below:
Rising sea levels: With climate change comes the melting of the polar ice caps and warming of the seas. This results in a significant increase in ocean levels. Sea turtles have the unique ability to return to the sandy beach where they hatch even after decades. These sandy beach nesting habitats are gradually disappearing as a result of rising ocean levels.
Severe storm: Severe storms increases the chances of beach flooding, decreasing sea turtle nesting success rates.
Hotter sands: One of the key challenges facing sea turtles is decreased hatching rate as a result of increasing beach temperature. Also, the gender of sea turtle hatchlings is largely dependent on the temperature of the sand in which the eggs incubate. Practically, the eggs in the cooler region turn out as male turtles while eggs in the warmer parts produce female turtles. Based on this, there tend to be higher proportion of females to males. This is an obvious threat to genetic diversity.
Changing ocean current: This poses a significant challenge to migratory species as ocean current is the vehicle by which sea turtles move from one location to another. As ocean current changes, the distribution and availability of prey species is affected. One of the major implications of this is that species will be found outside their normal ranges and may have to change their nesting time.
Bleaching coral reefs: Coral reefs serve as food to sea turtles. However, the increasing temperature adversely impacts the coral reef ecosystem subjecting them to what is generally known as the “bleaching effect.” This affects the amount of food available to sea turtles.
Sea turtles are one of the oldest species in the world to have survived til this day. Given the threats to their existence as a result of climate change, we can prevent their extinction by taking steps to address global climate change. By this, we will be doing our biodiversity a major favor.
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