HONOLULU (KHON2) — About 60% of the world’s turtles are considered threatened or endangered, and that number is expected to rise as climate change continues to get worse.

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It’s one of the major findings from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by University of Hawaii at Manoa researcher Robert Thomson.

According to Thomson, many habitats that have been critical areas for the evolution of turtles have disappeared and may shrink further within the next 100 years.

The heavy development of coastal and waterfront areas that greatly reduced turtles’ habitats are among the factors affecting their survival rates.

“As habitat loss, human exploitation of wild populations and climate change continue, this situation will become more dire,” Thomson said in a news release Thursday.

Hawaii may also be already seeing the effects of climate change on the local sea turtle population as the number and intensity of hurricanes increases.

“As one example, a 2018 hurricane that hit French Frigate Shoals virtually erased an island called East Island from the map,” Thomson said. “That single island was the site of a little less than half of all green sea turtle nests in the Hawaii archipelago. Now it’s gone.”

Thomson’s research resulted in a comprehensive diagram that illustrates evolutionary relationships for turtles. It aims to clarify when and how they evolved into the diversity that we see today.

Click here to learn more on Thomson’s research.