Each of the six sea turtle species found in the United States are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Every day, sea turtles face a number of threats including pollution, boat strikes, hunting, accidental capture by fisheries, as well as the development of many coastal beaches that female sea turtles use for nesting sites.
But a growing threat to sea turtles is climate change. Rising sea levels and increased numbers of storms will likely limit the number of beaches that are suitable for nesting, and warmer temperatures could have a significant effect on sea turtle reproduction since the sex of sea turtle eggs is determined by the nest temperature. Warmer sands will result in more females, while cooler sands favor males. The magic temperature seems to be about 82°F, but this can vary depending on the species.
Temperatures are predicted to rise by 2.5-10°F in the next century, which could alter hatchling sex ratios especially in areas that are already warm like the Caribbean. In Florida, loggerhead nests are already producing more than 90% females, and further warming could mean that no males hatch from these nests at all.
In a new study, however, a group of researchers used screens to shade nests, and they found that it effectively reduced nest temperatures and produced a higher proportion of male hatchlings. By protecting beaches where males are more common and by applying artificial shading, if necessary, a healthy ratio of male and female sea turtles will be born.
Although shading may provide some relief to sea turtle populations already threatened with extinction, it is only a temporary solution to a much larger problem. To help take action against climate change, here are a few steps you can take at home and in your community.
Matt Huelsenbeck is a marine scientist at Oceana.
Oceana has teamed up with several top scientific institutions in creating a report called "Hot, Sour & Breathless – Ocean Under Stress" which has been released this week at the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa.
The collaborative report explains how the oceans are becoming more acidic, warmer, and have less oxygen due to our current fossil fuel emissions. Although it’s hard to visualize the connection between a coal-fired power plant in the Midwest United States and a coral reef in Australia, everyone around the world is bound by widespread changes in the oceans triggered by carbon emissions.
The ocean’s chemistry and its physical properties are changing dramatically fast from the burning of fossil fuels, and when one of the world’s top marine scientists leaves her hard work in the lab to communicate this issue to the international community, pay attention -- it’s probably important. I’m talking about Dr. Carol Turley, senior scientist and executive board member of the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA), who will be at the climate conference in Durban.
She will be speaking at a side event entitled “Ocean Acidification: The Other Half of the CO2 Problem” which discusses how carbon dioxide emissions are making the oceans more acidic and posing threats to marine life, fisheries and livelihoods around the world.
Recently Dr. Turley received a prestigious award called the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to science granted by the Queen of England. Oceana, Dr. Turley and other leading marine scientists have been working to raise international awareness about ocean acidification and climate change threats to marine life and ocean resources during the last two climate negotiations, COP-15 and COP-16, and again this year.
The continued burning of fossil fuels poses serious threats to many creatures we know and love from plankton, corals, crabs and oysters all the way up to whales. Our report explains how there are big unknowns and massive risks with multiple stressors caused by emissions which could combine to completely alter many marine habitats and food webs.
As world leaders prepare for international climate change negotiations next week in Durban, South Africa, a new study out this week depicts the widespread threats that climate change presents for marine fisheries.
The bottom line? Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are presenting very long-term if not irreversible threats for the oceans.
Economists and top fisheries scientists at the University of British Columbia published a paper on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change that outlines the many challenges fisheries face from climate change, and how this can impact the global economy and hundreds of millions of lives.
Global marine fisheries are underperforming, mainly from rampant overfishing, but climate change also creates several serious threats to the future productivity of fisheries. These chemical and physical changes linked to climate change such as decreased oxygen levels, changes in plankton communities and plant growth, altered ocean circulation and increased acidity can disrupt the basic functioning of marine ecosystems and thwart any potential recovery of global fish stocks.
The study outlines how impacts can scale up from changing ocean conditions to the global economy, but the authors note that the true scope of impacts to employment are hard to predict.
The Arctic’s Northeast Passage is home to walruses, beluga whales, narwhals, and many other marine animals, most of whom have probably never seen an oil tanker or shipping vessel. Unfortunately, thanks to global climate change, that could soon change.
As the planet continues to warm, the coveted Northeast Passage has become ice-free and thus open to cargo ships, oil drillers, and fishing vessels for the first time.
There’s huge incentive for commerce and industry to use the Northeast Passage. The New York Times writes that the opening of the Passage shortens the travel time and reduces costs for shipping between Northern Europe and Asian markets. Companies like Exxon Mobil are attracted to the potential of oil and minerals in the Arctic seabed. And the elusive Arctic “Donut Hole,” a patch of international and unregulated waters in the center of the Ocean, is full of valuable fish including overfished Atlantic cod stocks.
Offshore drilling, increased shipping traffic, and fishing vessels in the Northeast Passage threatens one of the great patches of marine wilderness in the world. Drilling in the Arctic could mean a spill in a place as remote as Northern Russia, which would make the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup look like a cinch, primarily because cleanup mechanisms such as booms don’t work properly in icy waters.
We’ve been campaigning against offshore oil drilling to protect vulnerable Arctic habitats. We'll continue working with local native communities to ensure that future generations will see a healthy and vibrant Arctic. You can help by supporting our work to fight oil drilling in the Arctic.
The latest sea ice data are out, and they aren't pretty. Here’s the latest:
- Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center believe that Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent for this year on September 9, at 4.33 million square kilometers. If this is the case, the only year since 1979 with less ice was 2007, but they note that if wind conditions change, the area covered by ice may still shrink.
- The University of Washington’s Polar Science Center Arctic ice estimates, which measure volume of ice rather than area, find that this year’s minimum extent is the smallest on record (since 1979), with August sea ice volume at less than half the recorded average.
- NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has announced that globally this August was the eighth hottest since 1880—and when measuring only land temperatures, August 2011 was the second hottest on record.
The sea ice data in particular are drawing a lot of attention because sea ice maintenance affects weather patterns around the globe, melting ice contributes to warmer oceans and rising sea levels, and unusual ice patterns can wreak havoc on the lives of native humans and animals, particularly polar bears, which can drown, and walruses, which can starve.
This is the eighth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
Today’s featured junior ocean hero finalist is Homer, Alaska native McKenzy Haber, who hosted the first ever TEDxHomer Teen conference in 2010, with a theme of sustainability.
McKenzy and several other teens adapted the TED model to get the word out about ocean conservation to 140 teens and adults in Homer, Alaska and 1,800 livestreaming online. The conference included talks about the oceans, climate change in the Arctic and Antarctica, and ecological economics.
At the 9th World Wilderness Congress, also known as WILD9, he gave a plenary speech called "Dear Developed Earth," to world leaders about teen leadership and protecting wild Alaskan waters. “Many delegates came up to me afterward crying and saying how moving it was,” McKenzy wrote via e-mail. Watch it and see why McKenzy is such an inspiration:
In Al Gore’s “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis”, published in November 2009, the former Vice President describes the changes we need to make in technology, business and politics to avert climate catastrophe.
This week, the book got a dramatic digital makeover through the Our Choice App, essentially the first full-length interactive book for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
The new app allows you to scroll through all nineteen chapters, zoom into any page, and pick up and pop open any item, including more than 250 photos and 30 interactive infographics and animations.
Anything that makes climate change more visually – and tangibly -- accessible is a great thing in our book (no pun intended.)
Watch the mesmerizing demo below and download it at the iTunes store.
Lewis Pugh is a British environmentalist, maritime lawyer and Oceana ally. He was the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean, and is probably best known for two impressive feats: his 2007 swim across the North Pole to highlight the melting of Arctic sea ice, and a swim across a glacial lake in the Himalayas 2010 to draw attention to the region’s melting glaciers.
Last week Pugh spoke in Cape Town, South Africa against Shell’s proposed fracking in the country. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting natural gas by pumping chemicals, sand, and water underground to break apart rock and release gas. (For more on the controversial practice of hydrofracking see Grist and the New York Times.)
While Oceana doesn’t have a campaign directly dealing with the practice of hydrofracking, we are certainly aligned with Pugh on his bottom line: it’s time to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Here’s a clip of Pugh’s powerful speech:
Here in the U.S., we need your help to stop dirty energy, too. Please speak up by March 30 (tomorrow!) to prevent new offshore drilling for the next five years.
For millions of years, sea turtles have been a vital part of ocean ecosystems – but today they are on the brink of extinction as a result of irresponsible fishing and habitat destruction, among other threats. We’re working our hardest to save them, but we need your support.
All six sea turtle species that swim in US waters threatened or endangered, but it’s not too late to save them. Donate today and join Oceana in the fight to protect sea turtles and restore ocean balance. With your donation, we will continue pushing for stronger fishing regulations and legislation that will help protect and sustain turtle populations for years to come.
Our goal is to raise $40,000, and we still have a long way to go. Please donate today to help us in the fight to save sea turtles from extinction. And if you’ve already given, thank you -- now pass the word on via Facebook, Twitter, and however else you can!
When you picture the impacts of climate change, what animal comes to mind? Is it a polar bear floating on a thin chunk of ice, or maybe another cold climate species losing habitat like a walrus or a penguin?
Add butterflyfish to your thoughts about climate change, because a new study predicts that they, along with one-third of all coral reef fish, are losing reef habitat and are locally threatened with extinction from climate change.
Coral reefs are threatened by two aspects of carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification and climate change. Corals are susceptible to sustained periods of warmer water temperatures due to climate change, which causes them to bleach when they expel algae, turning them white.