Abstract

The impacts of human modifications of rivers and associated riverine fauna are well documented, especially following the construction of impoundments. In the Pearl River system of Mississippi and Louisiana, 2 endemic Graptemys species are found (G. oculifera; G. pearlensis), but little is known of their densities in urban segments near Jackson, Mississippi, even though both are species of conservation concern. I used spotting scopes and binoculars to complete replicated basking surveys for both Graptemys species during the summers of 2017 and 2018 in 5 equidistant segments of the Pearl River and nearby oxbow lakes. Basking densities for both species were generally higher in river segments upstream and downstream of Jackson compared to middle segments. Graptemys oculifera were found in greater densities than G. pearlensis in all segments (14–69-times higher). Graptemys oculifera was found in 4 of the 6 oxbow lakes surveyed, but mean densities decreased 10-fold compared with river segments; G. pearlensis was absent from all oxbow lakes. Densities for a generalist turtle species, Trachemys scripta, increased 35 times in oxbow vs. river habitats. The middle 3 survey segments (∼ 15.9 river kilometers) are inclusive of a proposed river impoundment project—the One Lake Project—for flood control and economic development. Estimates of direct and indirect impacts of this project are sizeable for G. oculifera (direct impact: 1684; indirect: 2129) while estimates for G. pearlensis are lower (direct: 88; indirect: 219). The One Lake Project would surely alter existing riverine processes and will favor generalist turtles such as T. scripta that prefer nonflowing lake settings at the expense of riverine Graptemys species. The One Lake Project would be a major setback to both Graptemys species in and around the project area and would negatively impact the recovery potential of both species.

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