Evaluating Monitoring Strategies and Habitat for Tortoises in the Sonoran Desert
AuthorZylstra, Erin R.
AdvisorSteidl, Robert J.
Committee ChairSteidl, Robert J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractEffective conservation requires efficient population monitoring, which can be challenging for rare species like the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). We compared two alternative survey methods that can be used to monitor tortoise populations: distance sampling and site occupancy estimation. In 2005 and 2006 combined, we surveyed 120 1-km transects to estimate density and 40 3-ha plots with five presence-“absence” surveys to estimate occupancy of Sonoran desert tortoises in two mountain ranges in southern Arizona. We found that monitoring programs based on an occupancy framework were more efficient and had greater power to detect linear trends. We also found that habitat use by Sonoran desert tortoises was influenced most by slope and aspect, contrasting with patterns observed in the Mojave Desert. Given its efficiency, power, and ability to gauge changes in distribution while accounting for variation in detectability, occupancy offers a promising alternative for long-term monitoring of Sonoran desert tortoise populations.
Degree ProgramNatural Resources