Can snapping turtles be used as an umbrella species for Blanding’s turtles in Ontario, Canada?

Dominic Demers, Emily Hawkins, Gabriel Blouin-Demers, Annie Morin

Abstract


Surrogates are commonly used in conservation biology to protect as many species as possible with limited resources. Umbrella species are used under the assumption that protection of their habitat simultaneously protects less demanding species. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the potential use of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina, [Linnaeus, 1758]) as an umbrella species for Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii, [Holbrook, 1838]) in Ontario, Canada. We studied habitat selection and spatial overlap of both species at three spatial scales: provincial, population, and location based on sightings reported by the public and on radio-telemetry data. At the provincial and population scales, habitat selection was very similar for both species. Blanding’s turtles have more specific habitat preferences than snapping turtles at the population and location scales. The entire Blanding’s turtle provincial range is encompassed within the snapping turtle provincial range. Snapping turtles are more abundant and easier to detect than Blanding’s turtles. Our study suggests that protection of snapping turtle habitat may also provide protection for Blanding’s turtles.

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