Maria Paula Aguilera
The catalysing factor for the overall increase in global temperatures is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap the sun’s heat within the Earth, and in turn raise temperatures; this has serious effects on our seas and their delicate balance. First, the warmer oceans help the acceleration of the melting of the planet’s polar regions, not only by rising ocean levels, but also releasing even more greenhouse gases (as there are gas reservoirs within the ice), and decreasing the regions to reflect direct sunlight, worsening the temperature rise. As the poles melt, the freshwater released dilutes the ocean salt water, reducing its density and limiting its movement (through convection currents), meaning a loss in the ocean’s heat-carrying capacities and movement (currents).
These and several other kinds of damage affecting our oceans (such as debris and chemical contamination) can lead to the harm of reproductive, feeding behaviors and sources of species like leatherbacks.
The rises in water levels mean a greater mass of liquid colliding with beaches, accelerating their erosion in some areas, and devouring some others. The damages to beaches limit or desolate the turtles’ nesting grounds, bounding the amount and conditions of the offspring, and even if some hatch, they need a quality beach to reach the ocean safely. The rapid climate changes also influence precipitation, to which the reproductive behaviors of these turtles are linked. It has been observed that phenomena like ÛÏEl NiÌ±oÛ and ÛÏLa NiÌ±aÛ have great impact on this species.
In addition to these afflictions, sea reptiles also are suffering from direct human interaction, such as debris like plastic bags being consumed by the animals, as they resemble their main food source (jellyfish), and poisonous chemicals in the water.
The marine ecosystem would be faced with a catastrophic biological unbalance in the eventual extinction of the leatherbacks, as they serve as natural regulators of several species of cephalopods. This would result in overpopulation of these species, and over preying of organisms such as zooplankton. In addition, the vanishing of the turtles would leave a hole in the food web, resulting in lack of food sources for animals that prey on the turtles, for instance, monitor lizards.
As a conclusion, it can be observed that both our direct and indirect activities greatly harm the oceanic ecosystems, and moreover, our activities continue to fuel a vicious cycle that will eventually terminate us.