Ecology of Turtles Inhabiting Golf Course and Farm Ponds in the Western Piedmont of North Carolina

Both agricultural land and golf courses represent prevalent forms of land
alteration in many areas, but may offer habitat to some animals in areas of high
urbanization. Our understanding of animal ecology in such modified habitats is
limited. A comparative ecology study of turtles inhabiting five golf course and five
farm ponds was conducted in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. Relative
species diversity, species abundance, size distribution, body condition and sex ratios
were assessed between pond types. The relationship between surrounding habitat
within a 500-m radius of each pond and pond size on turtle abundances was
examined. Painted turtles (N 5 248) (Chrysemys picta), 43 common snapping turtles
(Chelydra serpentina), 86 yellowbelly sliders (Trachemys scripta) and 28 eastern mud
turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum) were captured. Relative species abundances, size
distributions for each sex and sex ratios were not distinguishable between the two
pond types. More K. subrubrum were captured when roads were located farther from
ponds (p 5 0.05), more C. picta were captured in ponds with a higher percentage of
surrounding unforested habitat (p , 0.05), and more C. serpentina and C. picta were
captured in larger ponds (p 5 0.01 and p 5 0.05, respectively). Chrysemys picta from
golf course ponds had higher condition indices than those from farm ponds (p ,
0.001). In this region, both farm and golf course ponds can provide habitat for
several species of semi-aquatic turtles and for some species, the characteristics of the
surrounding landscape may be more influential to species abundances than specific
pond type.
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Abstract/Description: Both agricultural land and golf courses represent prevalent forms of land alteration in many areas, but may offer habitat to some animals in areas of high urbanization. Our understanding of animal ecology in such modified habitats is limited. A comparative ecology study of turtles inhabiting five golf course and five farm ponds was conducted in the western Piedmont of North Carolina. Relative species diversity, species abundance, size distribution, body condition and sex ratios were assessed between pond types. The relationship between surrounding habitat within a 500-m radius of each pond and pond size on turtle abundances was examined. Painted turtles (N 5 248) (Chrysemys picta), 43 common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), 86 yellowbelly sliders (Trachemys scripta) and 28 eastern mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum) were captured. Relative species abundances, size distributions for each sex and sex ratios were not distinguishable between the two pond types. More K. subrubrum were captured when roads were located farther from ponds (p 5 0.05), more C. picta were captured in ponds with a higher percentage of surrounding unforested habitat (p , 0.05), and more C. serpentina and C. picta were captured in larger ponds (p 5 0.01 and p 5 0.05, respectively). Chrysemys picta from golf course ponds had higher condition indices than those from farm ponds (p , 0.001). In this region, both farm and golf course ponds can provide habitat for several species of semi-aquatic turtles and for some species, the characteristics of the surrounding landscape may be more influential to species abundances than specific pond type.
Subject(s): anthropogenic habitats
herpetology
turtles