Declines of the Gopher Tortoise on Protected Lands

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Florida, Gopher tortoise, Management, Population decline, Protected lands

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We compared two assessments of the status of gopher tortoise populations at 10 protected sites in Florida, taken about a decade apart. We assessed status indirectly, using surveys of burrows along belt transects. Transect placement and timing were identical between surveys. We compared numbers of burrows, relative numbers of burrows of different activity conditions, and size distributions of burrows between surveys. The comparisons indicated that populations had declined at as many as eight of the sites. We found no strong connection between population decline and decline in habitat quality, as reflected in decreased ground cover and/or increased canopy cover between surveys. The response of a population to decline in habitat quality may depend on initial habitat structure, the degree of change in habitat structure, the period of time over which change is measured, the amount of habitat involved, and the level of habitat management.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Biological Conservation, v. 128, issue 1, p. 120-127