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Title: Impacts of a windfarm and wildfire on the spatial ecology and habitat selection of an endangered freshwater turtle
Authors: Delay, Stéphanie J.
Keywords: Windfarm;renewable energy;wildfire;turtle;Clemmys guttata;spatial ecology;habitat selection
Issue Date: 26-Aug-2022
Abstract: Wind is a source of renewable energy, and its use is projected to increase as governments look for solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Although wind energy presents many advantages, windfarms can pose risks to wildlife. I used a post-hoc design to investigate whether body condition, spatial ecology, and multiscale habitat selection by spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) differed among three treatment sites in central Ontario: Control, windfarm (Wind), and combined post-wildfire and windfarm (Windburn). I outfitted 9-10 turtles per treatment with VHF radio transmitters and tracked them approximately twice per week throughout the active season. Body condition, home range size and minimum daily distances moved by turtles did not differ among treatments, but it is possible that I did not detect acute responses to the habitat modification because turtles may have had sufficient time to adapt their behaviours as my study was conducted 2 years post-construction and 2.5 years post-wildfire. Turtles did not avoid habitats near turbines or roads but also did not cross roads unless a semi-aquatic culvert was present, highlighting the need to maintain habitat connectivity. In Windburn, turtles used wet depressions on rock barrens while Control and Wind turtles did not, possibly because Windburn turtles were exploiting new early successional macrohabitat resulting from the wildfire; however, pre-wildfire movement data would be required to confirm cause. In all treatments, turtles selected microhabitat based on temperature, water depth, available cover, and hummock presence, suggesting that turtles were able to find suitable microsites in the modified landscapes of my study area. My study is one of the first to assess the impacts of windfarms on semi-aquatic turtles, an at-risk and understudied taxon on windfarms, but more research is required to understand the acute and long-term impacts of windfarms and wildfires on turtles to inform data-driven mitigation strategies.
Appears in Collections:Biology - Master's Theses

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