Sunday, February 20, 2011

Year of the Turtle

Wood turtle photo courtesy of

Though turtles have been on the planet for about 220 million years, scientists now report that almost half of all turtle species is threatened. Turtle scientists are working to understand how global warming may affect turtle reproduction. To bring attention to this and other issues affecting turtles, researchers and other supporters have designated 2011 as the Year of the Turtle.

Turtles (which include tortoises) are central to the food web. Sea turtles graze on the sea grass found on the ocean floor, helping to keep it short and healthy. Healthy sea grass in turn is an important breeding ground for many species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. The same processes hold for freshwater and land turtles. For example, turtles contribute to the health of marshes and wetlands, being important prey for a suite of predators.

A few quick facts about turtles:

-About 50 percent of freshwater turtle species are threatened worldwide, more than any other animal group.

-About 20 percent of all turtle species worldwide are found in North America.

-Primary threats to turtles are habitat loss and exploitation.

-Climate change patterns, altered temperatures, affected wetlands and stream flow all are key factors that affect turtle habitats.

-Urban and suburban development causes turtles to be victims to fast-moving cars, farm machinery; turtles can also be unintentionally caught in fishing nets.

Click here to learn more.

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