Pollution takes many forms and threatens sea turtles in insidious ways. Leatherbacks often confuse plastic shopping bags for jellyfish, a deadly mistake.
The full range of threats to sea turtles associated with climate change remains unknown. Rising temperatures at nesting beaches and in foraging habitats, shifting ocean currents, sea level rise and increasing ocean acidification represent the patterns linked with climate change most likely to negatively impact sea turtles.
Changing seasonal rainfall patterns may contribute to higher sand temperatures on nesting beaches. Overheating in nests can kill nestling turtles or skew sex ratios to produce mostly female hatchlings. Rising sea levels push tides ever higher at nesting beaches, inundating the nests and preventing eggs from developing.
Shifts in regional currents and global circulation patterns resulting from climate change will reshape the ability of hatchling and juvenile turtles to find food and seek safety from predators. Climate change is expected to alter the abundance and distribution of sea turtle prey via changes to sea surface temperature, salinity, oxygen and acidity. The El Niño patterns becoming more frequent as global temperatures rise are associated with negative impacts on ocean productivity.