Impact of climate change on marine turtles

Marine turtles find themselves at the forefront of the battle against climate change. They are already threatened by many other factors, including fishing where they can meet a cruel end as by-catch in a net or on a hook, through garbage as they choke on a floating plastic bag mistaking it for a jellyfish, or through the destruction of nesting beaches.

Green sea turtle, (Chelonia mydas).  Indo-Pacific Ocean. rel=
Green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas). Indo-Pacific Ocean.
© Jürgen FREUND / WWF-Canon
As climate change sets in, it hits turtles on many fronts:

  • sea-levels rise leading to erosion of nesting beaches;
     
  • hotter summers mean higher sand temperatures, which can lead to changes in sex ratios or prevent eggs from hatching;
     
  • warmer ocean temperatures often lead to coral bleaching and other damage to coral reefs, which are their essential feeding habitats;
     
  • changes in ocean currents can modify migrations paths and feeding patterns and disrupt the natural annual cycle on which these species have relied for millions of years;
     
  • more extreme rainfall can raise ground water tables, thereby flooding nests.
Common green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) female returns to sea after laying eggs. Philippines. / ©: Jürgen FREUND / WWF-Canon
Common green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) female returns to sea after laying eggs. Philippines.
© Jürgen FREUND / WWF-Canon
Watch this series of short videos about the impact of climate change on different turtle species around the world.

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