Navigation Links
Turtle, dugongs 'at risk under climate change'

The "turtle and dugong capital of the world", the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Torres Strait region, faces increased pressure under climate change from human actions such as fishing, hunting, onshore development and pollution.

"Depletion of turtle and dugong numbers increases their vulnerability to other threats and lowers their ability to cope with climate change," Dr Mariana Fuentes of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University will tell the Coral Reef Symposium in Canberra today.

Dr Fuentes says that turtles in particular are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which include decreases in hatching success, loss of nesting areas and overheated beaches, which will decrease the turtles' reproductive output and may significantly alter the sex ratio of their offspring.

Dr. Fuentes' research into the green, hawksbill and flatback turtles and well as dugongs in the northern GBR and Torres Strait is seeking to establish priorities for the management of marine megafauna to increase their resilience to climate change.

"Managers face the challenge of addressing the direct effects of climate change, as well as ongoing threats that dugongs and sea turtles face throughout their geographic range," she explains. "For logistical, financial and political reasons, managers cannot address all threats simultaneously, and so need to prioritize their actions.

Of particular concern is the effect of climate change on the gender balance of turtle population, Dr Fuentes says: "The temperature of the beach sand determines the gender of the hatchlings warmer sand produces more females while cooler sand produces more males."

"Under current conditions the nesting grounds are already producing more females. With an increasing temperature, these turtles are at risk of stretching out the ratio, though we can't yet predict exactly when it will cause an unbalanced population."

"While sea turtles have survived large climatic fluctuations during their evolutionary history, modern rates of climate change are much faster, and are coupled with additional human pressures," says Dr Fuentes. "We still do not know whether turtles can adapt to modern rates of climate change."

Dugongs may experience indirect effects of climate change and human activity through impacts on their main food source, seagrass. Seagrass diebacks are linked to lower reproduction, increased mortality and emigration of dugongs.

Dr Fuentes has been working closely with indigenous communities in the Torres Strait region and northern GBR to monitor turtle numbers and condition and to track the movements of dugongs.

She says it will be important to take a range of short-term and long-term measures to protect turtles and dugongs from climate change, including:

  • reducing the negative stresses that they are currently subject to.
  • actively trying to change the habitat they use (e.g. by shading nests, re-vegetating beaches, and replacing lost sand).
  • protecting areas that seem to offer the best conditions as refuges in the future.

"Turtles and dugongs have numerous roles apart from their cultural and spiritual significance to the indigenous community, they are important for the tourism industry. Being at the top of the food chain also means that they have high ecological significance."

The loss of these species would have a huge impact on the northern Australian marine environment and on indigenous communities, she warns.

"There are still many uncertainties over how turtles and dugongs will be impacted by climate change. For the time being the best prospects for their survival are to mitigate climate change (by reducing carbon emissions) and to reduce negative pressure on turtles and dugongs from activities such as hunting and coastal development."

"However, as the impacts of climate change become more extreme, more 'active' adaptation strategies may be necessary. The success of each adaptation option will depend on climatic impact and local social, economic and cultural conditions, and therefore needs to be considered on a case by case basis, and at a local scale," Dr Fuentes explains.

Dr Fuentes will be presenting the results of her research on Friday the 8th October at "Coral reefs in a changing environment", at the Academy of Science's Shine Dome. Media are invited to attend the coral symposium and interview the scientists.


Contact: Mariana Fuentes
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

Related biology news :

1. New approach to underweight COPD patients
2. Robert Edwards, a founder of ESHRE, honored as Nobel laureate
3. Neiker-Tecnalia confirms need to undertake epidemiological monitoring programs for ticks
4. New study shows over one-fifth of the worlds plants are under threat of extinction
5. Marine scientists unveil the mystery of life on undersea mountains
6. Undergraduate research highlighted in DNA and Cell Biology Journal
7. Understanding behavioral patterns: Why bird flocks move in unison
8. OU study on genetics in fruit flies leads to new method for understanding brain function
9. Frost & Sullivan Award Underlines IrisGuards Product Quality Leadership
10. Hip dysplasia susceptibility in dogs may be underreported, according to Penn Vet comparative study
11. Roots of the British come under new scrutiny
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... Pressure BioSciences, Inc. (OTCQB: PBIO) ("PBI" and ... of broadly enabling, pressure cycling technology ("PCT")-based sample preparation ... it has received gross proceeds of $745,000 from an ... "Offering"), increasing the total amount raised to date in ... are expected in the near future. ...
(Date:11/11/2015)... MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical technology company that ... announce that it will be a Sponsor of the ... held November 17-19 in Hamburg , Germany.  ... iMedNet , MedNet,s easy-to-use, proven and affordable eClinical ... able to deliver time and cost savings of up to ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... 2015 --> ... by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market - Global ... - 2022", the global home security solutions market is expected to ... The market is estimated to expand at a CAGR ... 2022. Rising security needs among customers at homes, the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 27, 2015 , ... Pittcon is pleased to announce the ... in symposia, oral sessions, workshops, awards, and posters. The core of the ... such as, but not limited to, biotechnology, biomedical, drug discovery, environmental, food science, ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... India , November 26, 2015 ... The Global Biobanking Market 2016 - 2020 report ... by maintaining integrity and quality in long-term samples, ... enabling long-term cost-effectiveness. Automation minimizes manual errors such ... the technical efficiency. Further, it plays a vital ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... and HOLLISTON, Mass. , Nov. 25, ... HART ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ ... Jim McGorry will present at the LD Micro ... at 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation will be webcast ... days. Management will also be available at the conference ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: OREX ... fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th Annual ... The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, at ... A replay will be available for 14 days after ... Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development , BrewLife(858) ...
Breaking Biology Technology: