Long-term population ecology and movement patterns of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) in southwest Georgia
Wright, Alexander David
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Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation have led to an estimated 80% range-wide decline of gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) populations across the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Recently, the gopher tortoise was identified as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act in the eastern part of its range. To support an adaptive landscape planning and decision framework for gopher tortoise conservation, I examined the population dynamics and movement patterns of four gopher tortoise populations on a large private reserve in southwestern Georgia, where tortoises were previously marked/recaptured from 1995-2000. It is critical to understand how tortoise populations vary in space and time at large spatial and temporal scales to protect a long-lived species, such as the gopher tortoise, into perpetuity. With further understanding of the long-term population ecology and movement patterns, we can better evaluate the roles of emigration and survival within populations to inform reserve design and decision analysis for the species’ conservation.