Just as canaries help miners monitor underground gases, marine turtles are emerging as excellent indicators of the effects of climate change.
“Turtles are a really good way to study climate change because they depend on healthy beaches as well as mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs and deep ocean ecosystems to live”, said Dr. Lucy Hawkes, coordinator of an initiative to develop adaptation strategies for climate change impacts to turtles.
As part of the initiative, WWF launched a new website today, Adaptation to Climate Change in Marine Turtles (ACT).
“Understanding of how climate change may affect the beaches, the reef and the open ocean will not only benefit endangered sea turtle populations, but also the millions of people who live along the coastlines of the world and depend upon marine resources and environmental services.”
The public, educators, conservationists and scientists will be able to share information and projects to try to gain a better picture of how climate change will affect turtles and what might be done to combat the impacts.
According to the latest reports by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), our environment will be altered dramatically over the next years by increasing temperatures, increased severity and frequency of storm events and rising sea levels.
These effects could be devastating within low situated tropical areas, where the majority of the population depends on coastal resources and tourism.
The Caribbean is one such important region that is greatly threatened by climate change and is also host to globally important populations of sea turtles.
By 2010 the project hopes to understand the current state of knowledge about the impacts of climate change on marine turtles and their habitats with a global network of marine turtle and climate specialists, and make management recommendations for their conservation.
It is an initiative of WWF through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and support from Hewlett Packard.
The website, hosting free downloads, information and latest scientific findings, can be accessed at: http://www.panda.org/lac/marineturtles/act