Consistent Nest Site Selection by Turtles Across Habitats With Varying Levels of Human Disturbance
Author ORCID Identifier
Jorge E. López-Pérez https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9248-9330
Matthew E. Wolak https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7962-0071
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Human disturbance impacts the breeding behavior of many species, and it is particularly important to understand how these human-caused changes affect vulnerable taxa, such as turtles. Habitat alteration can change the amount and quality of suitable nesting habitat, while human presence during nesting may influence nesting behavior. Consequently, both habitat alteration and human presence can influence the microhabitat that females choose for nesting. In the summer of 2019, we located emydid turtle nests in east-central Alabama, USA, in areas with varying levels of human disturbance (high, intermediate, low). We aimed to determine whether turtles selected nest sites based on a range of microhabitat variables comparing maternally selected natural nests to randomly chosen artificial nests. We also compared nest site choice across areas with different levels of human disturbance. Natural nests had less variance in canopy openness and average daily mean and minimum temperature than artificial nests, but microhabitat variables were similar across differing levels of disturbance. Additionally, we experimentally quantified nest predation across a natural to human-disturbed gradient. Nest predation rates were higher in areas with low and intermediate levels of disturbance than in areas with high human disturbance. Overall, these results show that turtles are not adjusting their choices of nest microhabitat when faced with anthropogenic change, suggesting that preserving certain natural microhabitat features will be critical for populations in human-disturbed areas.
Folkerts Caldwell, M.; López-Pérez, J.E.; Warner, D.A.; Wolak, M.E. Consistent Nest Site Selection by Turtles across Habitats with Varying Levels of Human Disturbance. Diversity 2023, 15, 275. https://doi.org/10.3390/d15020275