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From Nursery to Maturity: The Importance of Wetlands in a Sea Turtles Journey

A sea turtle in the water

Wetlands provide distinctive and critical habitats for thousands of species of animals, from insects to fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. They are home to many endangered and threatened species, and many species of amphibians are dependent on wetlands for reproductive success.

Gulf Coast Wetlands include bays and estuaries, nurseries and spawning areas for marine species, and tidal wetlands, including barrier islands, tidal flats, bays, swamps, and marshes. These coastal areas provide habitat for wildlife and protection from storms that erode the shoreline. Many people are captivated by sea turtles, and residents and visitors on the upper Texas coast often ask about the possibility of seeing one in the wild.

What role do wetlands play in the life cycle of a sea turtle, if any? Numerous species of fish, shrimp, and crabs, important food sources for sea turtles, are found in wetlands. Wetlands improve water quality and store floodwaters, which is equally important to ensure a healthy marine and terrestrial habitat for sea turtles. All species of sea turtles use sandy beaches to lay their eggs, and after various incubation periods (depending on the species), hatchlings leave the nest and head to the ocean. Sea turtles may spend several years in the ocean habitat and return as juveniles to coastal seagrass habitats in the bays and coastal lagoons, where they mature.

For millions of years, sea turtles have contributed to maintaining the health of marine and terrestrial ecosystems by playing a significant role in the marine food chain and conveying energy between marine and coastal habitats. Coastal wetlands are used by sea turtles as nesting sites, and their waters are used for foraging, reproduction, migration, and development habitats.

Help to protect wetlands by encouraging city governments and developers to use permeable surfaces so water may seep slowly into the ground and be aware of zoning changes or drainage projects that would impact wetlands.


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