Turtles: The aquatic ecosystem stewards
Turtles: The aquatic ecosystem stewards Times Record News
Turtles and Their Role in Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Turtles play a crucial role in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems, contrary to the misconception that they are fish killers. Many turtle species are omnivores and consume large amounts of aquatic vegetation and carrion found in ponds and other bodies of water. They also help regulate the ecosystem by consuming dead or unhealthy fish and removing excess vegetation. These contributions align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to life below water (SDG 14) and life on land (SDG 15).
The River Cooter: A Unique Species
The River Cooter is often mistaken for the more common Red-eared Slider, but it has distinct physical characteristics. Unlike the Red-eared Slider, the River Cooter lacks prominent red stripes behind the eyes and arrow-shaped yellow markings on the crown. Its shell is noticeably pinched inward in front of the hind legs, and some individuals may have light ‘C-shaped’ markings on the carapace’s second costal scute. The River Cooter’s overall color is green with wide yellow stripes on the underside of the neck and thinner yellow stripes on the legs, tail, and top of the head. It also has a unique yellow central chin stripe that forks posteriorly to form a backward-facing ‘Y’ shape.
River Cooters are diurnal and can often be seen basking on the edges of streams, ponds, and logs. They reproduce by laying two clutches of approximately 20 eggs each year, with young turtles hatching from August through September. It’s important to note that the River Cooter is protected from commercial trade and sale in Texas and Oklahoma, contributing to the achievement of SDG 15.
The Smooth and Spiny Softshell Turtles
Two less common local turtle species are the Smooth and Spiny Softshell turtles. The adult Softshell Turtles have a flatter profile than other turtles and a carapace covered by leathery skin instead of bony scutes. They also have long, flexible necks and distinctive elongated, tubular nostrils.
Spiny Softshell Turtles have small conical projections on the anterior of their carapace, and the males have light spots and/or dark eye-shaped patterns on their carapace. Both species have dark-bordered light bands extending behind their eyes, with the Spiny Softshell having an additional light band through the angle of its jaws.
Softshell turtles are typically found near permanent bodies of water. The Smooth Softshell prefers rivers and streams with sandy bottoms, while the Spiny Softshell occurs in a wider range of habitats. Both species are carnivorous ambush predators and will bury themselves in mud or sandy bottoms in shallow water. It’s worth noting that Softshell turtles can be commercially harvested in Texas for the pet trade and for meat, which raises questions about their conservation and the achievement of SDGs 14 and 15.
The Mighty Snapping Turtles
The largest freshwater turtles in our area are the Snapping Turtles, which can weigh up to 40 pounds. The Common (Eastern) Snapping Turtle is widespread, while the larger Alligator Snapping Turtle is more commonly found in eastern Texas and Oklahoma. Both species have three lateral keels on their carapace, but the keels are more prominent in the Alligator Snapping Turtle.
Snapping Turtles have a reputation for being aggressive, but they are actually shy and usually avoid humans and other threats in their aquatic environments. The Alligator Snapping Turtle prefers deeper waters, while the Common Snapping Turtle can also be found in shallower, slower, more vegetated,
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 14: Life Below Water||Target 14.2: Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems||Indicator 14.2.1: Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches|
|SDG 15: Life on Land||Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats||Indicator 15.5.1: Red List Index|
|SDG 15: Life on Land||Target 15.8: Protect and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems||Indicator 15.8.1: Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area|
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
SDG 14: Life Below Water
The article discusses the role of turtles in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems by consuming dead and/or unhealthy fish or other animals and removing excess vegetation. This aligns with SDG 14, which aims to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems.
SDG 15: Life on Land
The article also mentions different turtle species and their habitats on land. This connects to SDG 15, which focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
Target 14.2: Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems
The article highlights the role of turtles in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems, which aligns with the target of sustainably managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems.
Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats
The article mentions the importance of protecting and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, which relates to the target of reducing the degradation of natural habitats.
Target 15.8: Protect and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems
The article discusses the habitats and behaviors of different turtle species, emphasizing the need to protect and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
Indicator 14.2.1: Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches
The article does not explicitly mention this indicator, but it implies the importance of ecosystem-based approaches in managing marine and coastal ecosystems by highlighting the role of turtles in maintaining a healthy balance.
Indicator 15.5.1: Red List Index
The article does not mention this indicator, but it indirectly refers to the need for urgent action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, which is measured by the Red List Index.
Indicator 15.8.1: Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area
The article does not mention this indicator, but it emphasizes the importance of protecting and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, which can be measured by the proportion of land that is degraded over the total land area.
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