Green turtles could soon be nesting in Mediterranean tourist hotspots due to global warming, according to a new study.
Human-driven climate change has caused sea surface temperatures to increase around the world, causing serious harm to marine life.
Scientists say sea turtles are particularly impacted, as the sex of their offspring is dependent on incubation temperature.
Researchers set about investigating how the species’ nesting spots could change in different climate scenarios.
Their study found that on the globe’s current climate trajectory, green turtles could start moving away from their typical nesting spots in the eastern Med like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus.
Instead, they could be moving further west to places more frequented by tourists, such as Italy, Greece, and the North African coastline.
Researchers Chiara Mancino, Sandra Hochscheid, and Luigi Maiorano discovered this by developing a model that predicted the suitability of specific nesting spots along various Mediterranean coastlines.
They then looked at how four different greenhouse gas emission scenarios could affect this in the year 2100, considering factors such as sea surface temperature, sea salinity, and human population density.
Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study discovered that the worse the climate scenario was, the greater the green turtle nesting range became.
Under the worst-case climate change scenario modeled, the nesting range increased by 62.4 percentage points.
This would see green turtles moving to the North African coastline to Algeria, much of Italy and Greece, and the south Adriatic Sea.
While this means there are more places for sea turtles to nest, and may sound exciting for animal-loving holiday-goers, the study’s authors warn that this change in habitat could be dangerous for the species.
By moving towards the heavily populated central and western Mediterranean, an area which sees around 360 million visitors per year, sea turtles would come into increased contact with humans.
This would force them to nest on urbanized beaches, which would likely prove detrimental to nesting success.
Dr. Mancino, of Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, said: “Coastal development, human presence, and associated pressures can modify marine turtle nesting environment, affect females’ reproductive output, and reduce their ability to colonize new areas.
“Driving on the beach and the use of heavy machinery for beach cleaning purposes are common practices and are responsible for alterations in sand characteristics and the destruction of turtle clutches.
“Beach furniture, sports courts, and artificial lighting on some nesting beaches reduce the habitat available for nesting, prevent females from accessing suitable nesting sites, and cause disorientation of hatchlings through light pollution.
“In addition, people on the beach at night may disrupt nesting activity, causing the abandonment of nesting attempts or the destruction through trampling of incubating nests.”
The research team stressed that future studies should look into how the effects can be mitigated so that sea turtles and their nesting grounds can be protected.
Dr. Mancino added: “As soon as the green turtle arrives in the western Med, management efforts should focus on enhancing their resilience to changing environmental conditions by mitigating other non-climatic threats they currently experience.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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