Populations of federally-listed gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are in decline in Mississippi. Soil and forage quality may be linked to their health and recruitment. To gain a better understanding of existing soil and forage quality conditions on areas inhabited by gopher tortoises, I investigated soil chemistry parameters, forage nutrients, and plant community characteristics from 2012 to 2013. These parameters were collected on 7 soil and habitat management treatment types in uplands on public forest lands in south Mississippi. Soil sample analyses indicated that most pH levels in soils were acidic (pH < 5.0) to strongly acidic (pH < 4.5). Greatest soil calcium levels were detected on growing season burn, moderately suitable soil areas, and soil phosphorus levels were greatest on mowed, less suitable soil areas. Greatest levels of nutrients were detected at 0–10 cm soil depths. Weak, positive associations were detected between soil pH and soil calcium and magnesium levels, while weak, negative associations were detected between soil pH and soil phosphorus levels. Greater levels of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus were detected in plants collected in mowed, less suitable soil areas. Cacti, forbs and, legumes were found to have greatest nutrient levels of all the plant growth forms. Moderate, positive associations were detected between soil pH and calcium levels in legumes and vines. Weak, positive associations were detected between soil pH and forage calcium levels in forbs and native grasses. Very weak, positive associations were detected between soil pH and forage phosphorus levels in vines. I found greatest species richness and percent coverage of legumes and forbs on moderately suitable soils that received growing season fire; whereas, greater species richness and percent coverage of native grasses were detected on moderately suitable soil regardless of season of burn. Greatest percent coverage of cacti (Opuntia sp.) and greatest quantities of above-ground plant biomass were detected on mowed, less suitable soil areas. This information can be valuable to habitat evaluation and management for gopher tortoises.
|Advisor:||Jones, Jeanne C.|
|School:||Mississippi State University|
|School Location:||United States -- Mississippi|
|Source:||DAI-B 81/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Soil sciences, Wildlife Management, Nutrition|
|Keywords:||Metabolic bone disease, Growing season burn, Gopher tortoise, Forage nutrients, Dormant season burn, Soil nutrients, Mississippi|
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