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A new study led by The University of Queensland scientists has found that endangered green and leatherback turtles are eating more plastic than ever before.
[SeaTurtles.org Plastic + Sea Turtles Image Library, PHOTO (r): Plastic injested by a juvenile Brazilian green turtle >>]
Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences and CSIRO’s Wealth from Ocean’s Flagship conducted an analysis of global research data from the last 25 years finding that green turtles are today twice as likely to ingest plastics than in 1985.
PhD student Qamar Schuyler who led the study said:
“Turtles eat more plastic that any other form of debris, and young ocean-going turtles are more likely to eat plastic than are their older, coastal dwelling relatives.”
The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, found no relationship between high levels of debris ingestion at stranding sites and high concentrations of marine debris (based on ocean-current modeling).
Ms Schuyler said “Amazingly, turtles found adjacent to the heavily populated New York City area showed little or no evidence of debris ingestion, whilst all of the turtles found near an undeveloped area of southern Brazil had eaten debris.”
Thus, conducting coastal cleanups is not the single answer to addressing the problem of debris ingestion for local sea turtle populations, although it is an important step in preventing marine debris input into the ocean.
Schuyler reports that “results from this global analysis indicate oceanic leatherback turtles and green turtles are at the greatest risk of both lethal and sublethal effects from ingested marine debris. To reduce this risk, man-made debris must be managed from the manufactures through to the consumers – before debris reaches the ocean”.
Since an estimated 80% of debris comes from land-based sources, it is critical to implement effective waste management strategies and to engage with industry to create appropriate innovations and controls to assist in decreasing marine debris.
SCHUYLER, Q., HARDESTY, B. D., WILCOX, C. and TOWNSEND, K. (2013), Global Analysis of Anthropogenic Debris Ingestion by Sea Turtles. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12126
The findings from PhD student Schuyler and colleagues are published in the journal Conservation Biology and supported by an ARC Linkage Grant.
High resolution Images are available from Tracey Franchi.
Media: Ms Qamar Schuyler (Q.Schuyer@uq.edu.au, +61 (07) 4937-3065 or 0427 566 868) or School of Biological Sciences Communications Manager Tracey Franchi (email@example.com or 3365 4831).
About the School of Biological Sciences
Through research undertaken in the School, UQ has been ranked by the 2012 National Taiwan University Rankings in the top five universities globally for research in ecology and environmental biology and in the top 18 universities globally for plant and animal biology. The UQ School of Biological Sciences attracts researchers of world standing in a range of disciplines, with international leaders in many diverse fields. Our work spans the scales of biological organisation, from molecules and cells to organisms, populations, species and communities. With more than 150 researchers working in evolution, global change biology, ecology, aquaculture, animal behaviour, physiology, entomology, zoology, botany, genomics, development and conservation biology, our researchers and graduate scientists are well-equipped to make a real difference in contributing to solving global problems.
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