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World Turtle Day

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”

– John Muir.

John Muir expresses the interconnectedness of everything that exists, beautifully, through this statement.

Yesterday was the ‘International Day for Biological Diversity’, a reminder to acknowledge and appreciate the bio diverse world we are a part of. This day was an initiative by the United Nations as a part of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature on 5th June 1992 at the Rio Summit. India is a signatory member of this convention. It also harbors four of the thirty-four globally recognized biodiversity hotspots.

Biodiversity encompasses everything from the microscopic algae to the gigantic blue whale. Every organism that exists plays a role in nurturing the earth’s ecosystem.

The theme of this year’s, International Day for Biological Diversity was ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods’. It asserts the importance of natural resources for our survival. All our livelihoods are dependent on nature. Farmers, fisher folk, tribes living in forest and others practicing such similar occupations are directly dependent on natural ecosystems for their livelihood. Others like us in cities are indirectly dependent on these ecosystems for raw material. However, the resources are limited and the demand for them is increasing. Therefore, there is a need to use the available resources efficiently.

A threat to a species is a threat to the ecosystem it supports, which in turn impacts the livelihoods dependent on that ecosystem.

Today being ‘World Turtle day’, this article will focus on the impacts of sea turtles on livelihoods. There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world. They play an important role in maintaining the health of oceans and beach ecosystems. They are one of the few species, who graze on sea grass, which if not controlled deteriorates the marine ecosystem. The Hawksbill Sea Turtle eats sponge among corals and thereby helps them grow by maintaining a healthy environment. Corals are home to a variety of fish and other marine organisms. Sea turtle shells are habitats for other small sea creatures, too. Sea turtle eggs and hatchlings are also a source of nutrition for beaches and for the vegetation that grows there. A large proportion of their diet comprises jellyfish, they therefore help maintain the population of jellyfish in the ocean. Jellyfish feed on other fish who are a source of livelihood for many.  Thereby, an increase in the jellyfish population will decrease the quantity of fish available for human consumption. Sea turtles perform many other ecosystem services as well.

They are therefore of great importance and help maintain the health of a bio diverse marine ecosystem. The ocean is an important source of livelihood for many and a decline in the sea turtle population will inadvertently have an impact on these livelihoods.

Sea turtles are under constant threat due to debris like plastics and other pollutants deposited in oceans. Beaches are prey to developmental activities as well. The sex of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature at the time it hatches. Global warming which is catalyzed by our human behavior is therefore an increasing threat.

Thereby, our activities are not only a threat to the biodiversity of the earth, but, from an economic and social perspective, a threat to livelihoods as well.

The chirping birds, the whispers of trees swaying in the wind, the sound of insects at night, which are sometimes drowned by our city life, signal the existence of biodiversity around us. They constantly remind us that we as humans are part of a larger circle and that the world is not limited to us. We need a bio diverse environment to survive and sustain our livelihoods as well.

Days like these come and go; however, they remind us of how everything is interlinked. They assert our responsibility towards preserving the larger environment we are a part of. Therefore, we should do everything we can to protect it.

 

Sources:

https://www.cbd.int/

http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php?page=marine_debris

Wilson,E.G., Miller,K.L., Allison,D.andMagliocca,M. (n.d.). Why healthy oceans need sea turtles: The importance of sea turtles to marine ecosystems. Retrieved from http://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Why_Healthy_Oceans_Need_Sea_Turtles.pdf

 

 

Vinita Rodrigues

 

 

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