The impacts of climate change on the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
As climate change continues to increase our oceans become increasingly more affected. Many organisms and environments within the ocean are negatively affected. An organism that is affected majorly by pollution in the oceans is the green sea turtle.
What are Green sea turtles
The green sea turtle is a marine reptile belonging to the Cheloniidae family of sea turtles. The sea turtle is found mainly in tropical regions around the world, including populations within the Atlantic, pacific and Indian oceans. The green sea turtle is herbivorous and feeds mainly on sea grass meadows found in tropical regions. The green sea turtle migrates thousands of miles each year to nesting beaches to lay eggs. As the green sea turtle is a reptile, it is restricted to living in warmer climates to regulate their body temperature more effectively. Green sea turtles are becoming increasingly threatened each year due to climate change and human pollution into the ocean.
What is climate change?
Climate change is the change in global climate patterns due to atmospheric pollution, mainly from the use of fossil fuels and other pollutants such as CFC’s. Climate change is increasing each year with over 12 billion tons of rubbish deposited into the ocean last year and with increasing levels of CO2 being emitted into the earths atmosphere via the use of fossil fuels. As the earths climate is changing dramatically, this has a negative impact on the earth’s oceans.
One of the biggest impacts of climate change in the ocean is ocean acidification. Acidification occurs as more CO2 is absorbed into the oceans via excess pollution. The increase in CO2 levels result in the oceans to increase in temperature and turn the Ph of the ocean more acidic. This causes incresigly large areas of the ocean to become both warmer in temperature and more acidic in Ph causing negative impacts for organisms in all areas of the ocean.
Garbage is also a major impact of climate change. Although human waste in the ocean hasn’t been directly linked to climate change, it has contributed negative effects in our oceans. As more rubbish in the ocean is being produced, more damage occurs to habitats of many marine organisms and direct damage to marine organisms occurs. Many marine organisms digest microplastics and often get trapped within patches of garbage.
Direct impacts on the green sea turtle
As climate change and pollution become increasingly damaging to the earth’s oceans, green sea turtles have seen many negative impacts.
Green sea turtles often become trapped within large pieces of plastic that have been found in the ocean. This can cause a restricting effect on the turtle’s movement and can also inhibit the turtles airways and cause death by strangling. Plastics can also be ingested by the turtles, if small enough, causing their digestive system to be polluted by tiny pieces of microplastic.
Increasing global temperatures will result in sand at nesting sites to become hotter. This results in a lower hatch rate of the eggs and can alter the future gender populations as female hatchlings are more common at higher temperatures. This will cause a negative future impact on green sea turtle populations as the population could be lower or an imbalance of gender ratios could occur.
Indirect effects on sea turtles
The increase in sea temperature can also alter currents and affect prey distribution as prey will migrate to cooler regions as global temperatures continue to increase. This will result in less prey available for the green sea turtle and population levels could continue to decrease in the presence of less food available.
Ocean acidification will cause coral reefs to bleach as temperatures and acidity of the ocean increases. As more coral reefs are damaged, there are less habitats for the greens sea turtle available. This could result in populations declining due to less habitats being available.
How can we reduce ocean pollution?
As ocean pollution becomes an increasing risk, not just to marine organisms, but, to the entire planet, it is important to reduce the increasing levels of pollution in our oceans. There are many ways to reduce the level of pollution in our oceans. The biggest way to reduce pollution is to lower our carbon footprint dramatically. This can be achieved by using less fossil fuels and reducing energy consumption. Another big way in which pollution can be reduced in the oceans is via recycling. Recycling will vastly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the oceans as many plastics will be reused instead of discarded as rubbish.
Future of the green sea turtle
As the ocean becomes increasingly polluted the green sea turtle will become increasingly threatened and population levels may decrease within the species. With loss of habitats and less prey the green sea turtle will find it increasingly difficult to survive. However, with more and more regulations being passed to reduce climate change pollution may significantly reduce and provide the sea turtles with, once again, habitable conditions within the tropical regions of the worlds oceans. It is too early to condemn the green sea turtle species but if pollution levels continue to increase the green sea turtle may be pushed past a point of no return.