Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) nesting habitat at a wetland mitigation site in Dutchess County, New York

Bock, Heidi
Jon Atwood, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Female turtles select nest sites presumably based on characteristics that enable hatchling survival and fitness. There are few studies done in situ, without manipulation of the nest or that discusses the possibility that turtles are selecting for specific characteristics. This study looked at vegetation, soil and surrounding landscape characteristics surrounding Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) nests at a wetland restoration site in Dutchess County, New York, in which upland areas were created as nesting habitat for the threatened species. Data were collected form 1997 to 2004 from 54 nest sites and analyzed to determine if the turtles selected certain physical characteristics in nest microhabitat that may influence hatchling productivity and fitness. The turtles nested in areas with significantly less vegetation cover compared to the associated random site. In years, categorized as wet, based on departure from normal rainfall data, the nest sites had a higher percentage of gravel and a lower percentage of coarse and fine sands, whereas in dry years, the nest sites had a higher percentage of sand. These results suggest that turtles are selectively choosing nest sites that hold a sufficient amount of moisture depending on the conditions in a particular year and that are minimally vegetated. The lack of significant difference in the hatchling productivity during the different years suggests the turtles do in fact choose sites that ensure greater hatching success throughout varying environmental conditions. Understanding the habitat preferences of Blanding's turtles will enable managers to better preserve and create suitable nesting areas in order to protect this long-lived species.