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Do We Need Leatherback Turtles?

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumJuly 7, 2008 6:24 PM


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As I've written in the past, species are constantly blinking in and out of existence. This may or may not be of concern depending on your scale of interest. After all, extinction is the only real certainty. Last month Andy Revkin asked, '

Does the world need leatherback turtles?



Need, eh? Well, maybe he's posing the wrong question... We don't fully understand the ecological role of sea turtles, but we do know their numbers are a shadow of former abundance. Their loss is reflective of a growing global trend: the loss of ocean species through fishing down food webs and incidental bycatch. So many big critters are dwindling as we've altered the slowly evolved colorful diversity of animals living offshore. Well folks, do we need leatherback turtles? Arguably, no. However, as J. Nichols responded, 'each lost species weakens us all, but the loss of sea turtles goes far deeper than the loss of a single thread in the fabric of life.'

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