Climate Change Affecting Coral Triangle Turtles Research Paper
Climate change is now recognized as a major environmental problem. Today, many regions have been found challenging to live in due to harsh climatic conditions, putting the lives of many animals and plants on the line. The ever-increasing cases of prolonged droughts continue to endanger all life forms in the region. As result, the diversity of life on the planet is threatened as well.
All animals and marine life inhabiting the arctic and other coastal strips face the same challenge. Though the causes of environmental degradation are debatable, scientists, scholars, and environmentalist agree on the fact that environmental degradation is higher than ever, posing a threat to both plants and animals. The ocean ecosystems are also threatened.
Sea levels are rising due to melting polar ice, and the oceans become warmer and warmer. Many marine species have become extinct due to climatic changes. In fact, if the current trend continues unchecked, many other species will be in danger of extinction. This paper discusses the effects of climatic change on the diverse lives in the Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle
The coral triangle is a marine area found in the Western Pacific Ocean. It includes the waters of Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands (Global Environment Facility 124). The region was named so due to the staggering number of corals, which is approximated to be 600 different species of reef building corals.
The region harbors the highest number of turtle and fish species known in the world. It is projected that the Coral Triangle will be a source of livelihood for over 120 million people. The area is a fishing ground supplying the local inhabitants with both food and money.
Therefore, the Coral Triangle is a highly diversified region. Anything that affects the region will have an impact on not only its unique species, but also on 120 million people. The coral Triangle region is shown in figure 1below.
How climate change affecting Coral Triangle turtles
Climatic change has led to the destruction and extinction of many marine species (Hannah 189). In the Coral Triangle, destruction has been multifaceted.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, climatic change negatively influence ocean ecosystem through acidification, ocean warming, rise of water level, and coral reef bleaching (287). All the above factors severely affect the Coral Triangles ecosystem. As a result, the regions turtles, which have acted as tourist attraction for decades, began to decline in number.
The existence of Coral Triangle turtles can be traced back to 100 million years ago. Despite adverse climatic changes that significantly altered ocean temperature, , and increased the level of water acidity, the turtles have survived. Their survival is attributed to their ability to adapt.
The process of establishing new habitats, after the destruction of existing ones, may take turtles the decades to complete. This is worsened by the fact that sea turtles use both marine and terrestrial habitats during their life cycles; hence, them in two dimensions, thereby aggravating the already bad situation.
Ocean warming or rise in temperature, which is also caused by climatic changes, has equally contributed to the decline in the population of Coral Triangle turtles. At sea, the high temperatures make it uncomfortable for the turtles to spend a lot of time in water. Moreover, many organisms and plants cannot survive the high temperatures; hence, this leads to their death.
Turtles feed on those tiny organisms and plants, and their deaths, therefore, threaten turtles own existence. Reef-building corals, for instance, cannot cope with increased temperatures, yet they are the dominant food creating organisms in the Coral Triangle. The increasing temperatures do not only affect the ocean water temperature, but also sand temperature. Sand temperature is crucial to the reaction process of the species.
Turtles lay their eggs in the sand where they dig shallow holes to bury their eggs to incubate. The temperature of the sand plays a crucial role in determining the sex of the hatchlings (Spotila 51).
Scientists have determined that high temperatures lead to female hatchlings, while low temperatures contribute to the development of male hatchlings. With the increasing temperatures, the genetic diversity of turtles is threatened because more females as compared to males will be hatched.
Rise in sea water level accompanied by changes in ocean currents have also affected Coral Triangle turtles as they are beach-dependent species. They come ashore to lay eggs and use the sandy beaches to incubate. The rising water level, tornados, huge storms, and swift currents, all attributed to climatic changes, are threatening to change their habitat. Sandy beaches, for instance, continue to reduce in size due to rising waters.
Humans and beach-dependent species are, therefore, forced to fight for the limited space left. At sea, currents do not make the situation easy either. Turtles migration pattern is guided by a strong knowledge of ocean current patterns.
For years, the turtles have used the same routes to shift when temperatures are expected to change. Today, climatic changes have altered ocean current patterns. This has forced the turtles to change their migration patterns as well as nesting timing. Considering that a complete change of route can take decades, the effects of the current challenges can be felt in years to come.
Increase in water acidity is another challenge. The rise in water temperature has led to increased absorption of carbon dioxide. The effects of excess carbon dioxide to turtles and other organisms cannot be overstated. The gas, carbon dioxide, also alters the pH level of water, when absorbed in excess.
As a result, water becomes more acidic. Acidic water affects both plants and animals. This situation is threatening some species incapable of or skeletons to protect them from excess carbon dioxide, such as Shellfish, and corals.
The latest cases of tornados, wild winds, and catastrophic storms, all attributed to climatic change, have had a great tall on Coral Triangle turtles. The storms have swept many turtles ashore, at times, into dry lands from where coming back to the ocean is impossible. The affected turtles stand no chance of survival. New hatchlings are equally troubled by high storms.
This is worsened by their lack of experience in wading turbulent waters, which makes them . Storms and tornados that sweep sandy beaches are known to sweep away incubated eggs. Such occurrences erase an entire season of hatchlings, thereby reducing significantly turtles population.