Talk The Influence of Roads Land Use Fire and Flood on Movement Home Range and Habitat Use of Florida Box Turtle and Gopher Tortoise in the Ocala National Forest Ecosystem Florida USA
  • Daniel J Smith
    Bio statement : Dr. Smith is a research associate and member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Biology at the University of Central Florida and a member of the National Academies Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Ecology and Transportation. He has 25+ years of experience in the fields of ecology and environmental planning. His primary focus is studying movement patterns and habitat use of terrestrial vertebrates and integrating conservation, transportation and land-use planning. Previous work includes: landscape fragmentation/connectivity assessments; ecological hotspot modeling; wildlife movement, behavioral and habitat use studies; wildlife-vehicle collision-reduction studies; and evaluation and design of wildlife-crossing structures. His most recent publication is the Handbook of Road Ecology. 2015. R. van der Ree, D.J. Smith, and C. Grilo (eds.). John Wiley & Sons, Oxford. 552 pp. ISBN: 978-1-118-56818-7.
    Country : US
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The Ocala National Forest ecosystem (2,000 km2) is a diverse mosaic of wetland and upland plant communities, but increasingly threatened by urbanization along existing roads. One example is Highway 40, a busy two-lane road carrying over 15,000 vehicles/day that bisects the forest. We used radio-telemetry to examine effects of the road, fire management and variation in water levels in floodplain forests on movements, home range and habitat use by gopher tortoise and Florida box turtle. Candidate animals were captured within 500 m of the road corridor. Locations were recorded 1-2 times per week; data recorded included date, time, weather, activity and micro-habitat. Twelve tortoises were tracked from 2012 to 2013, six in pineland (with fire) and six in scrub habitat (without fire). Tortoise home range was on average 1.0 ha (with fire) and 0.73 ha (without fire). Where fire was absent, tortoises used trails, powerlines and roadsides for foraging. Dense shrub layers altered movement pathways, home range size and shape. Sixteen box turtles were tracked from 2012 to 2014. Average home range was 7.21 ha (males) and 22.3 ha (females). There was significant overlap among individuals; in particular, multiple males overlapped individual female home ranges. Maximum straight-line distance traveled was 2 km. There were 10 habitat types represented in box turtle home ranges; 50% or more of the proportion of habitat was mixed pine-hardwood forest, pinelands represented 15%, and remaining habitat types represented 10% or less. The mixed pine-hardwood forest and pinelands consisted of areas that experienced seasonal flooding and box turtle movements mimicked the ebb and flow of the river floodplain. Tortoises and box turtles consistently used roadside areas and 9 road-kills were recorded during the study period. Prescribed fire management in neglected scrub habitat and installation of wildlife passages and fencing along the road will improve population sustainability.

turtles, roads, fragmentation, habitat, movement, home range