Biophysical Analysis of the Impact of Shifting Land Use
on Ornate Box Turtles, Wisconsin, USA


Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, 1117 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI 53706, USA

Current address: Institute for Borderlands Ecology, Box 29, Animas, NM 88020, USA

        ABSTRACT:  Field studies using telemetry and microclimate analysis were used to examine the impact of habitat alteration on the ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata, in southwestern Wisconsin.  This work determined the biophysical characteristics that make sand prairies and savanna critical box turtle habitats, how changes in vegetation affect potential daily and seasonal activity periods of box turtles, and how these changes in activity period relate to physiological costs.  Initial results from studies of box turtles in relatively contiguous habitat contrasted with those in severely fragmented areas indicate that the reduction in savanna and prairie habitats by habitat fragmentation has severe impacts on box turtle populations.  Turtles in disturbed habitats appear to have shorter activity seasons, larger home ranges, and longer incubation periods.  This appears to lead to lower recruitment and higher adult mortality.  Because they exhibit a strong site fidelity, this suggests that habitat protection and restoration are key to protecting ornate box turtles, which are listed as “Endangered” in Wisconsin.

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