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Welcome to the technical sessions schedule for the 2015 SEAFWA Annual Meeting.

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Tuesday, November 3 • 1:20pm - 1:40pm
Long-term Population Ecology and Large-scale Movement Patterns of Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) in Southwestern Georgia

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Alexander D. Wright, University of Georgia & Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Jeffrey Hepinstall-Cymerman, University of Georgia; Lora L. Smith, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Clinton T. Moore, U.S. Geological Society, Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Georgia

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 federal listing under the Endangered Species Act in the eastern part of its range. We report on a project that is part of a collaborative research effort developing an adaptive landscape planning and decision framework to be implemented by the Georgia DNR for the statewide conservation of gopher tortoise populations. Currently, we are investigating the population dynamics (survivorship rates, dispersal rates, and recruitment rates) and functional connectivity of four study populations at Ichauway, an ~11,200 ha reserve in southwestern Georgia, where tortoises were previously marked/recaptured between 1995 and 1999. Our preliminary results demonstrate a difference in survivorship among size-classes (Juvenile, Subadult, and Adult) and sites, and a difference in recruitment rates among sites. We will present data on dispersal distances, which will be used to examine hypotheses that dispersal rates differ among sites due to differences in tortoise density and resistance to movement of the surrounding landscape, as well as among size-classes due to differences in predation risk. To protect a long-lived species such as the gopher tortoise into perpetuity, it is critical to understand these processes and behaviors at larger spatial and temporal scales. By further understanding these integral parts of tortoise ecology, we can better understand and evaluate the connectivity of known populations to inform reserve design and decision analysis for the species’ conservation.

Tuesday November 3, 2015 1:20pm - 1:40pm EST
Ballroom Salon B

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