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Title: Evaluating the effectiveness of headstarting for wood turtle (glyptemys insculpta) population recovery
Authors: Mullin, Damien I.
Keywords: headstarting;conservation;recovery;species-at-risk;endangered;population modelling;population viability analyses;zoo conservation;long-term research;population demography;population dynamics;intervention ecology;turtles;VORTEX
Issue Date: 5-Mar-2019
Abstract: Headstarting is a conservation strategy that assumes raising hatchling turtles to larger body sizes increases their survivorship compared to wild non-headstarted turtles. This increased survivorship should increase population growth rate relative to wild recruitment. There are, however, few published results of long-term population recovery using headstarting. The lack of demographic assessment of population recovery has led to an overall lack of quantitative assessment of the effectiveness of headstarting as a conservation action. Headstarting needs to be efficient and effective as a poorly executed headstarting project can result in species extinction given it is often used with critically endangered species. We released 3 cohorts of headstarted Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) with varying degrees of headstarting to determine if headstarting increases survivorship. I showed that headstarting turtles to a larger body size confers a survival advantage, and this survival advantage should increase population growth rate relative to wild recruitment. I then quantitatively assessed the effectiveness of a 15-year Wood Turtle headstarting program by modeling population-specific demographic parameters to evaluate recovery efforts, and determine the next phase of recovery. I found some evidence of population recovery, but also identified challenges and make several management recommendations that should enhance the success of the headstarting program. Overall, I have provided support for headstarting as an effective conservation strategy, with the caveat that all headstarting projects must be paired with management plans that maintain high adult and juvenile survival.
Appears in Collections:Biology - Master's Theses
Master's Theses

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