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The Gopher Tortoise Essay

906 words - 4 pages

For a long time the gopher tortoise population has dominated the south eastern United States, ranging from the state of Georgia stretching as far as Louisiana and continuing down to Florida. The gopher tortoise primarily resided in the longleaf pine woodlands, serving as a keystone species to this ecosystem, providing shelter for over three hundred species in these woodlands that have frequent fires. However, overtime the south east has lost over eighty percent of its longleaf pine woodlands due to deforestation and the decline of natural forest fires, causing the gopher tortoise population to decline very rapidly as well. Another recent discovery of a respiratory disease found in gopher ...view middle of the document...

In their study, males averaged a number of ten burrows whereas females only had five per year. It is also important to keep in mind that these burrows dug by the tortoises create viable habitats for other species to seek refuge from predators as well as fires, as well as creates a small disturbance to the understory that can increase soil nutrients.
Another study pertaining to the movement patterns of the gopher tortoise was conducted by Guyer, Johnson, and Herman in 2012. They focused on how tortoise density relates with patterns of movement. Their finds were that the number of burrows is similar with the number of tortoises that were present on the site, stating that for every tortoise add, 2.5 additional burrows were created, as well as the sizes of the burrows were similar to the sizes of the tortoise (Guyer et al. 2012). The reasons for this pattern of movement were similar to that of the Eubanks study, stating that males moved farther than females, and also moved greater distances. Once again mate searching is mainly done by the male tortoise, leaving the female to move only to find food in low habitat quality sites. The loss of the longleaf pine woodlands has greatly impacted the movement patters of the gopher tortoise, forcing them to travel much farther distances and increasing their home range in order to find mates and well as search for food. This leads to the question of; has burrow patterns changed as well since the loss of habitat for the gopher tortoise?
Burrow patterns of the gopher tortoise have also been a recent focus of scientific research recently centering on the changes in distribution and the mean number of...

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