MAY 01, 2018 5:05 PM PDT

Microplastic Pollution Threatens Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Sites

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Loggerhead sea turtle populations have a rough time keeping up as it is, but humankind’s excessive use of plastic for just about everything could be making things even tougher on them.

A paper published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin this week by researchers from Florida State University underscores how microplastic pollution hinders the species’ population growth by contaminating its delicate nesting environment.

A couple of baby loggerhead sea turtles.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

"With increasing populations, higher demand for resources and more use of plastic, we're having a lot more plastic and microplastic appearing as marine debris," explained study co-author Mariana Fuentes.

"In these coastal areas, we're seeing significantly more pollution."

Related: Biologists surgically remove a conjoined twin from a wild loggerhead sea turtle

The researchers reached their conclusion after surveying ten of Florida’s most prominent loggerhead nesting sites and found evidence for bits of microplastics virtually everywhere they looked.

And to make matters worse, microplastics were most prevalent in the sand dunes that the loggerheads take advantage of for nesting.

Many of the microplastics they found measured no more than just a few millimeters thick, but it’s enough to alter the composition of the sand residing at the nesting sites.

Plastic tends to retain heat, so its presence in the sand impacts the surrounding sand temperature. Given how loggerheads exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination during the incubation period, this excessive heat fluctuation can translate to too many of one gender and make it more challenging for the species to reproduce adequately.

While the situation looks bleak for loggerheads, the researchers seem confident that humankind will be able to reverse the damages before it’s too late. Countless efforts are underway to reduce plastic waste, and this could dramatically slash the amount of plastic pollution found on beaches in the future.

"There is a lot of hope," Fuentes said. "We're beginning to see more and more initiatives providing incentives to discourage the use of plastics. I see my students making those changes every day. It's up to everyone."

Related: Geomagnetic imprinting may help loggerhead sea turtles find their way home

Perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel after all…

Source: Florida State University

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
APR 29, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Examining Plastic Pollution in Antarctica
APR 29, 2020
Examining Plastic Pollution in Antarctica
While it’s not surprising that plastic pollution is reaching Antarctica, it is undoubtedly alarming considering th ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
Allosaurus Fossil Bite Marks Indicate Cannibalism
MAY 31, 2020
Allosaurus Fossil Bite Marks Indicate Cannibalism
Anyone that has ever watched Hollywood’s famous Jurassic Park films will know that dinosaurs were large and hungry ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
MAY 31, 2020
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
Like any other bird species, adult penguins follow the tried and true tradition of raising their young close to the nest ...
JUN 08, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Unlocking Deep Ocean Mysteries with eDNA
JUN 08, 2020
Unlocking Deep Ocean Mysteries with eDNA
The ocean remains largely unexplored, and the ocean’s twilight zone is of key interest to researchers. Named for t ...
JUN 26, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Sled Dogs & an Ancient Siberian Dog Have a Lot in Common Genetically
JUN 26, 2020
Sled Dogs & an Ancient Siberian Dog Have a Lot in Common Genetically
Dogs have held special significance in many people's lives for thousands of years. Dogs are thought to have been domesti ...
JUL 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Why Mosquitoes Have a Preference for Human Blood
JUL 27, 2020
Why Mosquitoes Have a Preference for Human Blood
There is a huge variety of mosquitoes in the world - around 3,500 species - and only a few seek humans for their blood m ...
Loading Comments...