Short-Term Forest Management Effects on a Long-Lived Ectotherm (Box Turtle) Andrea F. Currylow*, Brian J. MacGowan, Rod N. Williams

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Short-Term Forest Management Effects on a Long-Lived Ectotherm (Box Turtle) Andrea F. Currylow*, Brian J. MacGowan, Rod N. Williams

Post  Admin on Sun Jul 22, 2012 8:07 pm

Abstract

Timber harvesting has been shown to have both positive and negative effects on forest dwelling species. We examined the immediate effects of timber harvests (clearcuts and group selection openings) on ectotherm behavior, using the eastern box turtle as a model. We monitored the movement and thermal ecology of 50 adult box turtles using radiotelemetry from May–October for two years prior to, and two years following scheduled timber harvests in the Central Hardwoods Region of the U.S. Annual home ranges (7.45 ha, 100% MCP) did not differ in any year or in response to timber harvests, but were 33% larger than previous estimates (range 0.47–187.67 ha). Distance of daily movements decreased post-harvest (from 22 m±1.2 m to 15 m±0.9 m) whereas thermal optima increased (from 23±1°C to 25±1°C). Microclimatic conditions varied by habitat type, but monthly average temperatures were warmer in harvested areas by as much as 13°C. Animals that used harvest openings were exposed to extreme monthly average temperatures (~40°C). As a result, the animals made shorter and more frequent movements in and out of the harvest areas while maintaining 9% higher body temperatures. This experimental design coupled with radiotelemetry and behavioral observation of a wild ectotherm population prior to and in response to anthropogenic habitat alteration is the first of its kind. Our results indicate that even in a relatively contiguous forested landscape with small-scale timber harvests, there are local effects on the thermal ecology of ectotherms. Ultimately, the results of this research can benefit the conservation and management of temperature-dependent species by informing effects of timber management across landscapes amid changing climates.
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