Sea Turtles Face Fresh Challenge From Climate Change
Posted on October 14th 2018
It’s not enough that there is an existential struggle to save the endangered sea turtle, but new challenges continue to occur. In Florida the species all but vanished four decades ago. Fortunately, there was a coordinated response from conservationists, government and volunteers which saved the species from extinction in that part of the world. However, it would appear the fight is far from over and a new trend has emerged that threatens the turtle’s survival, male turtles seem to be disappearing.
Experts are worried
Experts who study Florida’s sea turtle population say they are worried by what they are witnessing amongst turtle hatchlings. Over the last twenty years or so, there are fewer years where males emerge. Seven out of the last ten years have recorded results where no males have been found whatsoever. The trend cannot be attributed to genetics because the determinants of a sea turtle’s sex is the temperature of the sand.
Temperatures that equal or exceed 29 degrees will produce predominantly female hatchlings. When it gets too warm, males don’t show up and if it gets too cool females don’t appear. Turtle nests are getting warmer largely as a result of climate change. As the beaches of Florida get warmer the species is bound to suffer and sea turtles as well as alligators who also respond to changes in nest temperatures will start to shut down.
The odds are against them
Recently experts released hundreds of hatchlings into the ocean to the widespread admiration of dozens of turtle aficionados who turned up to witness the event. The researchers however know that the odds for this prehistoric species are not in its favour to begin with, leave alone when the effects of climate change are added to the equation.
Not possible to predict what will happen
Scientists say the species may have some resilience that may have not yet been discovered, however they remain pessimistic because the rate of change today is so much faster than what occurred in the past. Simply put whatever mitigating factors may be at play may longer be enough. The sea turtle does not reach sexual maturity until it is at least 25 years old. This means it is not possible to determine the impact of disappearing males for at least another generation.