Bad News For Green Sea Turtles In An Age Of Warming Seas: warmer oceans drive declining growth rates
A number of studies have investigated the effect of climate change on sea turtles, such as the loss of nesting beaches from sea level rise (Fish et al, 2008), the negative impact of warmer ocean temperatures on coral reefs (Hoegh-Guldberg, et al., 2007; Carpenter et al, 2008) and the feminization of turtle populations due to elevated nest temperatures (Laloë et al, 2017). Sea turtles are ectotherms, meaning that the regulation of their body temperature is dependent on external sources. This makes them very sensitive to fluctuating environmental conditions. A recent study by Bjorndal et al. (2017) has looked into the long-term effects of a changing climate on the physiology of individual green sea turtles, specifically their growth rate. Green turtles are “long-lived, highly migratory, primarily herbivorous mega-consumers that may migrate over hundreds to thousands of kilometers” among neritic habitats and foraging grounds during their immature period (Bjorndal et al., 2017; Musick & Limpus, 1997). Large, highly migratory ectotherms are particularly useful as bio-indicators of environmental change at regional scales as their growth is strongly influenced by environmental conditions (Bjorndal et al., 2017).
This news-item was published in BioNews 9-2017.