SEP 12, 2018 6:47 PM PDT

Global Turtle Decline Adversely Impacts the Surrounding Ecosystem

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The Earth is home to a wide assortment of turtle species, but many populations continue to decline despite rigorous conservation efforts that are intended to protect them. Out of the 365 known turtle species worldwide, current estimates imply that nearly 61% of those are either susceptible to the threat of extinction or already extinct.

Conservationists recognize that turtles are among some of the world’s most critically-endangered vertebrates today, but as it appears, there a lot more to the story.

Turtles of all sorts, not just their sea-variants, are particularly important to the environment.

Image Credit: Pixabay

As a study published this week in the journal BioSciences points out, the decline of global turtle populations may potentially trigger chain reactions in the surrounding environment. Even more alarmingly, these chain reactions aren’t well-understood, nor are they well-documented for that matter.

"Our goal is to provide resource managers with a full picture of the state of these iconic animals worldwide, and what long-term impacts our environment might experience if populations continue to decrease and species loss continues," explained study lead author Jeffrey Lovich from the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Turtles contribute to the health of many environments, including desert, wetland, freshwater, and marine ecosystems, and their decline may lead to negative effects on other species, including humans, that may not be immediately apparent."

Related: Biofluorescent sea turtles? Where?!

As it would seem, turtles are vital players in many of the naturally-occurring mechanisms found in nature. Among those, they support a healthy food web, scatter plant seeds, and produce habitats that smaller organisms depend on for predator evasion. 

We can attribute turtle population declines to a variety of factors including climate change, exploitation, and habitat destruction. If trends continue at the rate they’re going today, then nature’s mechanisms mentioned above could be disrupted, or worse, permanently cease to exist.

"Our purpose is to inform the public of the many critical ecological roles turtles perform on a global scale and bring awareness to the plight of these emblematic animals whose ancestors walked with the dinosaurs," added Whit Gibbons, an ecologist with the University of Georgia and a co-author of the study.

"These modern descendants of an ancient lineage are touchstones for how human influences are causing the decline of so much of the world's wildlife. Our hope is that everyone will be encouraged to engage in concerted efforts to conserve their well-earned legacy as part of our natural habitats."

Related: Beach chair allegedly to blame for sea turtle's premature death

While previous studies have considered the impacts of declining turtle populations on an individual basis, this study is one of the first to merge them into a bigger picture; one that can be brought to the attention of conservationists to devise a better plan.

Most people don’t realize it, but if one animal goes extinct, it can echo down the entire food web, or prevent some of mother nature’s natural mechanisms from taking place. It just so happens that turtles play a significant role in this space, thus protecting them should be one of our utmost priorities.

Source: University of Georgia, BioSciences

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Invasive species reduce water resources in Ethiopia
JAN 30, 2021
Invasive species reduce water resources in Ethiopia
An invasive evergreen tree, known as Prosopis juliflora, is quite the thirsty species. Prosopis has taken over large swa ...
JAN 31, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Humans Drank Milk Long Before Their Bodies Could Tolerate It
JAN 31, 2021
Humans Drank Milk Long Before Their Bodies Could Tolerate It
Scientists and archaeologists have long sought to learn when humans started consuming milk. They have tried to use indir ...
FEB 10, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The Evolution of Snake Venom From Predation to Protection
FEB 10, 2021
The Evolution of Snake Venom From Predation to Protection
The venom of some spitting snakes has evolved to cause more pain to mammals, a defense mechanism likely meant to fend of ...
FEB 23, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Plants May be Slow, But They Twist and Twirl
FEB 23, 2021
Plants May be Slow, But They Twist and Twirl
Plant roots can drill down into the soil, new work has shown. While it happens too slowly for us to see, time-lapse phot ...
MAR 26, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Iconic Bald Eagles are Thriving
MAR 26, 2021
Iconic Bald Eagles are Thriving
Once dangerously on the brink of extinction, bald eagle populations are thriving throughout the lower 48 states of the U ...
JUN 14, 2021
Plants & Animals
A Simple Switch Saves the Lives of Migratory Birds
JUN 14, 2021
A Simple Switch Saves the Lives of Migratory Birds
This image by Karen Bean of the Field Museum shows 4 birds that died crashing into McCormick Place windows; they're now ...
Loading Comments...