Climate Change Threatening North American Turtle Species

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Written By: Emma Websdale

The heightening pressure of Climate Change is shrinking the ranges of many North American turtle species, threatening them with extinction reveals a new study.
717081101A new study published in journal PLOS ONE, that integrated data from more than 300 published studies on turtle genetics, physiology, fossil history and response to climate change over the last 320 millennia, found that many north American turtle species were being effected by climate change due to diminishing ranges of their habitat.

Results from the study found that species living in temperate forests and grasslands, lake systems and deserts from Central and Eastern US have been the most affected by climate change, compared to species occurring in the Pacific Coast, mountain highlands and tropics.

Drawing from data that covered three glacial-interglacial cycles and significant temperature variations of 5-10C, results from the study found that the current rate of climate change is much faster than the turtle’s ability to adapt and evolve in order to tolerate the changes. The species’ previous response to climate change -shifting range; is becoming an urgent problem, as most of the remaining species’ suitable habitats are being lost to agricultural and urban developments.

“This study, which for the first time comprehensively integrates all available information for the majority of all North American turtle species, provides profound evidence of how global warming will affect the genetic architecture of the turtles”, said Dennis Rödder, co-lead author of the study.

Meanwhile David Polly, co-author of the report said, “In the past, turtles have coped with climate change by shifting their geographic ranges to areas with more compatible climates. However, it is more difficult for modern turtles to do that with today’s managed waterways and agricultural and urban landscapes.”

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over 50% of the world’s species of turtles and tortoises (330) are threatened with extinction. Over recent years, the illegal pet trade, habitat loss and climate change have been responsible for the species’ decline.

 In addition this week, the University of Sydney has found that Australia’s native koala population could go extinct as climate change continues to deliver extreme weathers and temperatures across the country, rapidly declining their numbers.

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