The use of habitat classification and mapping of the threatened flattened musk turtle in the shoreline management of Smith Lake, Alabama

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The purpose of this thesis was to develop a habitat classification system indicating suitability of shoreline for the federally threatened flattened musk turtle (Sternotherus depressus). The shoreline of Smith Lake was visually assessed by a biologist familiar with S. depressus. Segments of shoreline were designated "Good", "Moderate" or "Poor" relative to substrate type. Sternotherus depressus prefers large rock with an abundance of crevices which it uses for protection. To ground truth the habitat classifications, 155 sites along the shoreline were trapped for S. depressus for three trapping seasons (spring and fall 2011, spring 2012). A total of 58 S. depressus individuals were trapped at 25 separate sites. Of these 25 sites, 14 were in "Good" habitat, nine were in "Moderate" habitat, and two were located in "Poor" habitat. A chi-square test for independence indicated that there is an association between the presence or absence of S. depressus and habitat type (÷2 = 8.463, N = 155, p = 0.015) at the trap site. The habitat classification system will be used by Alabama Power Company in its shoreline development program to help reduce adverse effects upon S. depressus or its habitat on Smith Lake.

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Geography, Wildlife conservation, Environmental management