Curious to know why sea turtles are so important? Julia Horrocks from the University of the West Indies provides a great overview on why turtles are so important in the fight towards climate change.
We work with this University through the Barbados Sea Turtle Project who are based there. You can find out more about our work with them here:
Sea turtle conservation contributes both to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Sea turtles do not just rely on coral reefs, seagrass beds and beaches for their own survival, but they in return help to maintain them in a healthy state. Hawksbills for instance control the growth of sponges on reefs. These are competing species with corals for space on the reef structure and can overgrow them. Coral reefs are carbon sinks (corals store carbon in the form of their calcium carbonate skeletons) and without reef-building corals reef erosion will eventually overtake reef accretion. Green turtles graze seagrass habitats and make space for other species. Grazing food chains mean that less seagrass senesces and decomposes in place, and this reduces fungal and bacterial loads that threaten the health of the beds. Healthy seagrasses anchor sand in place in the nearshore which helps to protect reefs from being smothered by sand. All sea turtle species leave nutrients buried in the beach in the form of unhatched eggs and shells, and these help beach vegetation to thrive in what is otherwise a very nutrient poor ecosystem. Without healthy reefs and seagrasses protecting shorelines, and beach plants holding sand in place, beach erosion would occur much faster as sea levels rise and the coast would be even more severely affected by the increasing number of storms. The beaches and nearshore habitats are critical for economic activity and sustainable livelihoods in fisheries, tourism etc and provide important recreational spaces, all of which are disproportionately important in the context of small Caribbean islands.
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