Turtles are ancient creatures that walked the earth with the dinosaurs and
today are important and visible elements in many ecosystems. Many species
play key ecological roles, serving as both predators and prey, contributing to
the cycling of nutrients and acting as seed dispersers. Florida is home to over
8% of the world's known turtle species and is a significant area for both turtle
diversity and habitat. Twenty-five of the 54 turtle species found in the United
States also occur in Florida. They are represented in upland communities,
such as scrub and sandhill, in rivers, lakes, swamps, and even coastal habitats,
such as salt marsh, mangrove communities and marine systems. Certainly,
habitat diversity and species richness makes Florida a chelonian hotspot.
Many species that occur in Florida are now in decline and in need of
conservation attention. Conservation efforts on their behalf are also
beneficial to the ecosystems in which they are found.
"Despite a tremendous amount of effort to conserve turtles, we continue to lose
more ground than we gain... How tragic it would be for 200 million years of
turtle evolution to all but disappear by the close of the twenty-first century."
- Michael W. Klemens