Our stories often discuss how human activities change the natural environment. With most of us confined to our homes, the lack of human activities is having profound effects on the environment. We are talking about some of these this week.
Seven different species of sea turtles are found in the world’s oceans and play important roles in marine ecosystems. Over time, human activities have tipped the scales against the survival of these animals. They have been hunted for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells and face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. Their nesting grounds in beaches are constantly disturbed and endangered by human activity.
With the beaches in Florida closed in the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, there is less plastic waste, fewer people and vehicles, and fewer artificial lights on the beach that disorient emerging turtle hatchlings. Because of all of these factors, sea turtles have been building their nests without disruptions.
In April, it was nesting season for leatherback turtles, the largest of all sea turtles. In May, loggerhead turtles arrive in Florida. Later in the summer, green turtles will arrive.
It takes about 60 days for sea turtle eggs to incubate and to hatch. During that period, lots of things can happen to a nest on an active beach – it can get trampled, people can dig it up, and artificial light can confuse the hatchlings as they try to find their way to the water. With the current shutdown, it should be a productive nesting season for sea turtles.
On the other hand, when beaches reopen, there may well be a major influx of people flocking to the beach because they have been stuck indoors for an extended period of time.
Photo, posted August 9, 2016, courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife via Flickr.