New esearch says that habitat loss and degradation poses a greater risk to the survival of turtles and tortoises than warm temperatures
Habitat loss and degradation pose bigger threat to turtles and tortoises than rising temperatures, a new research suggests.
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Although turtles have been living on Earth for about 220 million years but recent reports suggest that almost half of their species are threatened, mainly because of illegal trade of meat, shells, eggs and skin and habitat destruction. Rising temperatures also have an impact on turtles nesting sites and their population.
Researchers from the University of Bristol, London's Natural History Museum, and the University of California set out to test how much climate change can affect turtles and tortoise and how they respond to rising global temperatures. To understand the impact of climate change on their distributions, researchers were required to understand the weather conditions in the past because learning more about the history can offer more clues about the current and future state.
For this purpose, they examined the Late Cretaceous fossil record of turtles and quantified the differences between the ecology of living turtles and tortoises and those living in earlier warmer times.
Analysis showed that earlier tortoise and turtles were able to withstand warmer climates in the past as long as they have enough water resources to support themselves and to live in their habitats. It means that climate change is having a less devastating impact on turtles and tortoise than we initially thought and many other factors are likely contributing more to their decline.
"Other conservation threats, such as manmade habitat degradation and barriers to movement, might be as important in determining the fates of turtles in a warming world as the warming itself.” Co-author Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum said.
Researchers believe that the biggest question for the conservation of these animals is not how warm it will be in the near future but how fast that warming will be. Earlier warm periods were stretched to tens of thousands of years and they provided animals a better chance to adapt to those conditions. Now, temperatures are rising faster than ever before, giving them less time to respond to those changes and survive.
“Some groups of turtles have maintained similar niches over millions of years,” said lead author Amy Waterson from University of Bristol. “They have withstood warmer climates in the past and their ability to adapt to the rate of environmental change happening today will be an important factor in their resilience to future climate change.”