Land Use, Development, and Natural Succession
and Their Effects on Bog Turtle Habitat
in the Southeastern United States


1 Department of Herpetology, Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30315, USA
Current Address: North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, P.O. Box 29555,
Raleigh, NC 27626-0555, USA / e-mail:
2 Department of Herpetology, Knoxville Zoological Gardens, P.O. Box 6040,
Knoxville, TN 37914, USA / e-mail:

        ABSTRACT:  The bog turtle, Clemmys muhlenbergii (Schoepff), has a very fragmented distribution along the Blue Ridge Plateau and Upper Piedmont in the southeastern United States.  First reported from North Carolina in 1882, the bog turtle has had a long and varied history in the South.  At least 164 occurrence records are known and a total of nearly 900 bog turtles have been reported or found in five states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Southern bog turtle colonies are small ( 35 turtles per hectare), and individual sites are usually less than three hectares in size.  Habitats supporting bog turtles have been described as southern Appalachian fen, southern Appalachian bog, swamp forest-bog complex, and hillside seepage bog natural communities.  An additional community has been suggested, the meadow bog, a wetland type with many components of the previous types, but because of human land use practices (pasture and farmland), its natural integrity has been altered.  The majority of bog turtle habitats fall into this latter classification.  Small site size, fragmentation, and lengthy distances between sites indicate that dispersal and recruitment may occur infrequently or not at all in the South.  Direct habitat threats include draining for pasture and farmland; development for business and recreation areas such as shopping centers, retirement villages, lakes, ponds, and golf courses; Department of Transportation projects, including new highway bypasses, road widening, and bridge construction; and natural successional processes from bog to climax forest.  Management of sites, including restoration, selective cutting and pruning, cattle grazing, and education of landowners is recommended and necessary for the continued survival of the bog turtle in the southeastern United States.

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