Why Turtles Matter

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Raising awareness about the issues that cause population declines in turtles is important as these creatures are very beneficial to both humans and to the environment.

Many turtle species are paramount in keeping wetlands healthy, by preying on sick or already dead animals. This service is extremely helpful to humans as wetlands help alleviate floods and droughts, and keep water clean. The scavenging behaviors of turtles, also helps keep water quality clean and healthy. This both benefits other animals (like fish) and humans.

Certain turtle species aid in the control of invasive species. Map Turtles (Graptemys geographica) will prey on Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). These mussels are a widespread invasive species throughout the Great Lakes Regions.

Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) are essential to keeping seagrass beds healthy. Seagrass needs to be short to remain vital and the grazing activities of sea turtles, does exactly that. These beds are important breeding and development sites for a plethora of fish species and other marine life. This means that a myriad of species depend on Sea Turtles.

The diet of many turtles is comprised largely of plant matter. Turtles help contribute to the spread of plants, seeds, berries and vegetation with their droppings. Many other turtles are scavengers, preying on carrion. This makes turtles the ''garbage collectors'' of the natural world, removing waste from their ecological communities which keeps them healthy, and helps stop the spread of certain diseases.

The digging and burrowing behaviors of certain turtles helps to contribute to soil health and maintenance (similar to a farmer tilling a field).

Many turtle species also play the role of predator in the Eco-systems in which they reside. The Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) preys heavily on sponges, helping to maintain a balance of these populations in the oceans. This allows for coral reefs to grow healthy. Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) play a similar role, helping to keep Jellyfish populations in check. When jellyfish populations are too high they can be detrimental to fish stocks. This is due to the fact that jellyfish prey on fish eggs.

Aside from the benefits that they provide to the environment, other animals, and humans; turtles are above all else intrinsically valuable. Their lives are meaningful and important independent of their usefulness to humans.