Habitat Assessment for Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus) and Grassland Birds in South Mississippi
Stukey, Nathan Andrew
AdvisorJones, Jeanne C.
Jones, W. Daryl
CommitteeHunt, Kevin M.
I studied eight habitat types of south Mississippi from 2009-2010 to examine habitat conditions and faunal communities associated with the presence of gopher tortoise burrows (Gopherus polyphemus). Field methods included burrow surveys, vegetation sampling, mound counts, and point count surveys. Active tortoise burrow presence was influenced by percent coverage of bare ground, native legumes, grass-like plants, basal area, overstory canopy, and woody plants. Fire ant mound densities were influenced by percent coverage of overstory canopy cover, bare ground, grass-like vegetation, and woody plants. Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and Bachman’s sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis) were detected more frequently in longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) dominated habitats supporting gopher tortoises. My findings will be used to address the paucity of information related to gopher tortoise conservation on private and public lands and identify potential areas for inclusion in conservation initiatives supporting longleaf pine restoration or gopher tortoise conservation in the southeastern lower coastal plain.