Each day the sunrises and we begin our daily grind, we inevitably will be in touch with the ecology that surround us. When we run the water to brush our teeth and take our showers, when we get in our vehicles and drive to work, when we come home and check our email on our computers, when we call our friends on our cell phones, and when we dispose of our trash throughout our day.
Ecology is the study of our earth – it’s relationships with organisms and their environment, and how those relationships affect the planet. There is a lot we can do as a species to help our environment sustain itself. And a great way to begin is to get educated.
Sea Turtle Ecology / Eating Seagrass
Very few animals actually feed on sea grass and the sea turtle is one of them. Sea grass like terrestrial grass needs to be cut short to be healthy. It needs to be cropped short rather than just growing longer blades so that it can grow across the ocean bottom.
Sea turtles and manatees function like grazing animals to crop the grass which helps maintain the health of beds of the sea grass. Recent studies have shown that there have been decreases in the areas of sea grass beds. This decline may be connected to declining numbers of sea turtles.
Sea Turtle Ecology / Keeping the Marine System Alive
The importance of sea grass beds lies in the fact that they are breeding and developmental grounds for many species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. The loss and extinction of grass sea beds would lead to the loss and extinction of many species of marine life that humans harvest as food.
This would in effect lower the levels of materials available to the food chain. This would eventually lead to a chain reaction that would lead to many more marine species being lost. This state of affairs would result to an inevitable impact on humans.
If sea turtles go extinct this will result in the severe decline of sea grass beds. All animals depending on their survival upon the sea grass beds will also be impacted. In an ecosystem all components are vital. If one component is lost then others will eventually follow.
Sea Turtle Ecology / Beach and Dune Systems
Another ecosystem that would suffer from a decline in sea turtle numbers is the ecologies in beach and dune systems. Sand cannot hold nutrients for long periods and nutrients would soon be depleted if not constantly renewed. That is why so little vegetation grows on the dunes and none on the beach itself. Sea turtles lower dunes and use beaches to lay their eggs and nest them.
Sea Turtle Ecology / Lots and Lots of Eggs
Sea turtles lay an average of 100 eggs per nest and construct between 3-7 nests during summer nesting seasons. In a typical 20 mile stretch of coastline in Florida, sea turtles lay over 150,000 pounds of eggs on the sand of these beaches.
All of these nest, eggs, and hatchlings will not survive to adulthood. Some of them are bound to die and decompose on these beaches. All these will provide nutrients and other organic matter for the vegetation that will hold the dunes together and prevent erosion.
Sea Turtle Ecology / Keeping the Nutrients Thriving
Dune vegetation can grow stronger and healthier from the reproductive habits of sea turtles. The presence of nutrients from the egg-laying activities of sea turtles makes the ecology of the entire beach/dune system healthier. Roots become stronger and better able to hold the sand in the dunes which in turn helps to prevent erosion on the beach.
If the numbers of sea turtles decline there would be fewer eggs, hatchlings, and even cast-off shells that can provide nutrients for the vegetation in this ecosystem. Dune vegetation would lose a major source of nutrients and as a result would become weaker and less healthy which would in turn diminish their ability to hold san and prevent erosion. As mentioned earlier if one part of an ecosystem goes then the rest will inevitably follow.
Sea turtles are a vital part of two ecosystems the beach/dune system and marine ecosystem. If sea turtles become extinct both these ecosystems would be affected as a direct result. Since humans make use of both ecosystems there then would be a direct effect that would negatively impact humans.
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