ABS 2022
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The Influence of Plant Communities on Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) Habitat Use
Paige N. Boban, Beth A. Reinke. Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL, United States

Plant and animal biodiversity is under threat due to our rapidly changing climate. Understanding the role of plant communities in animal habitat selection and use can inform strategies for mitigating declining animal populations. The painted turtle is a widespread freshwater species in North America that inhabits a variety of habitats. We combined an experimental approach with visual surveys to determine how painted turtle space occupation was impacted by vegetation in a northern Wisconsin lake system. We found that the space occupied by turtles could be predicted by the distribution of key plant species and that relationship changed throughout the active season. Plant communities can strongly influence the spatial distribution and overall behavior of freshwater turtle populations that are declining due to habitat loss and climate change, and should be considered when making conservation decisions.