“Endangered turtle populations dropping”

Around the world in the Year of the Turtle, turtle populations are declining due to  climate changes, habitat loss and over-exploitation.

Historically, the common snapping turtle is widespread in the Eastern and Central United States, but not much is known about their current distribution. They are a target species for the USA Turtle Mapping Project currently being organized by Dede Olson of the US Forest Service. Credit: Mark Feldman

Sex affected nest temperature
The sex of some species of turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest: warm nests produce females, cooler nests, males. And although turtles have been on the planet for about 220 million years, scientists now report that almost half of the turtle species is threatened.

Turtle scientists are working to understand how global warming may affect turtle reproduction.

Why should we be concerned about the loss of turtles?

“Turtles are centrally nested in the food web and are symbols of our natural heritage. They hold a significant role in many cultures. For example, in many southeast Asian cultures turtles are used for food, pets, and medicine,” explains Deanna Olson, a research ecologist and co-chair of the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation steering committee spearheading the Year of the Turtle campaign.

Turtles (which include tortoises) are central to the food web. Sea turtles graze on the sea grass found on the ocean floor, helping to keep it short and healthy. Healthy sea grass in turn is an important breeding ground for many species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans.

The same processes hold for freshwater and land turtles. For example, turtles contribute to the health of marshes and wetlands, being important prey for a suite of predators. The Year of the Turtle activities, include a monthly newsletter showcasing research and conservation efforts, education and citizen science projects, turtle-themed art, literature, and cultural perspectives, says Olson, a scientist with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Turtles facts:

+ 50 percent of freshwater turtle species are threatened worldwide, more than any other animal group.

+ 20 percent of all turtle species worldwide are found in North America.

+ Habitat loss and exploitation are the biggest threat to turtles.

+ Climate change patterns, altered temperatures, affected wetlands and stream flow  are key factors that affect turtle habitats.

+ Urban and suburban development causes turtles to be victims to fast-moving cars, farm machinery; turtles can also be unintentionally caught in fishing nets.

Help conserve turtle populations?

+ Protect rare turtle and tortoise species and their habitats.

+ Manage common turtle species and their habitats so they may remain common.

+ Manage crisis situations such as acute hazards (i.e., oil spills) and rare species in peril.

Excerpts and Image courtesy of   http://bit.ly/gYErJY


1 Comment

  1. February 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm

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