Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Master of Forestry (MF)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture, Food and Environment

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Dr. Steven J. Price

Abstract

With the recent increase in utility-scale wind energy development and current climate variation in the desert southwest US, researchers have become increasingly concerned with the reaction of wildlife and critical habitat. Understanding the relationships among monitoring efforts, climate, industrial landscapes and wildlife is critical to effective management. Given the need for information available on how these potential stressors affect terrestrial wildlife, my objective was to determine how climate variation, wind energy facilities (WEF) and monitoring efforts by researchers influence behavior and survivorship in a population of the federally threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Data were collected via surveys, motion-sensor camera trapping and radio-telemetry during the span of two decades at a WEF in California. Using capture-mark-recapture survivorship analysis and generalized linear mixed-effects models, I acquired long-term estimates of survivorship, activity, and levels of stress response to researchers and climate. From this study I found that researchers as well as abiotic effects influence the probability of voiding, a possible stress induced behavior in desert tortoises. Additionally, we found that tortoise activity and survival is constrained by winter precipitation and habitat types. Further research is needed on proximate mechanisms of wind turbines (noise and vibration) and their effects on desert tortoise behavior.

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