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
JUL 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
JUL 31, 2020
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
Researchers from West Virginia University (WVU) recently discovered how a parasitic fungus uses male cicadas to spread i ...
SEP 08, 2020
Plants & Animals
At Least 11 Species of Fish That Can Walk Are Identified
SEP 08, 2020
At Least 11 Species of Fish That Can Walk Are Identified
Using an evolutionary map and CT (computed tomography) scans, an international team of researchers has identified eleven ...
OCT 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'
OCT 06, 2020
How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a famous carnivorous plant that can capture and consume insects and even small ...
OCT 07, 2020
Plants & Animals
Tasmanian Devils Return to Mainland Australia
OCT 07, 2020
Tasmanian Devils Return to Mainland Australia
For the first time in about 3,000 years, Tasmanian devils have returned to mainland Australia. According to a report fro ...
NOV 07, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How the Suction Cups on Octopus Arms Detect Their Surroundings
NOV 07, 2020
How the Suction Cups on Octopus Arms Detect Their Surroundings
Scientists have taken a close look at the physiology of the octopus, creatures that are ancient and unique. Their arms c ...
NOV 21, 2020
Earth & The Environment
The first ever global bee diversity map
NOV 21, 2020
The first ever global bee diversity map
A study reported in the journal Current Biology showcases the first global map of bee diversity. Designed by a coll ...
Loading Comments...