May 22, 2023
Terrapins and the Rising Tide
- as seen by -Lizbeth Miron
The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is one of the 15 turtle species that reside at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Prospect Park Zoo and is an educational animal ambassador for endangered species.
This native New Yorker lives exclusively in brackish water and uses its strong beak to open hard-shelled mollusks and crustaceans. Raising awareness of the diamondback terrapin is critical because it is a keystone species in the marshes of New York City, such as Jamaica Bay, where rising tide levels from climate change are imminent.
While habitat fragmentation and degradation may still threaten the diamondback terrapin, rising temperatures and waters along the coast of marshes will flood their nesting sites. These changes can also significantly alter their male-to-female proportions because all turtles have a temperature-dependent sex determination. Female terrapins hatch at warmer temperatures, while males hatch at cooler ones. Climate change will affect the survival and sex ratios of the diamondback terrapin population in New York City.
Protecting the next generation of diamondback terrapins is crucial because they help balance populations of grazers to maintain healthy wetlands. Marshlands serve as carbon sinks that store carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change. Restoring the habitat of diamondback terrapins enhances the sequestration of carbon and resiliency against the rising tide.
Meeting this turtle in our education programs at the zoo inspired me to take action beyond the classroom to protect our local coastal waters. Support conservation efforts in your local community to celebrate World Turtle Day. Join our Prospect Park Zoo education staff on Friday, June 9, 2023, from 10:00 am to 11:30 am for a beach cleanup along the Rockaway beach shore. Far Rockaway Beach is near the Jamaica Bay peninsula which is a crucial habitat for diamondback terrapins. Email email@example.com to sign-up.