A local population of Blanding’s turtles in Kanata, west of Ottawa, will likely go extinct within the next decade if conditions don’t improve, despite current conservation measures. These findings were published in a major research paper by Dr. Anne-Christine Auge who studied the at-risk population of turtles in her Ph.D. studies in Trent University’s Environmental Life Sciences program.
"During the past ten years, the Kanata area saw significant road and residential development; a lot of the turtle habitat was lost and road mortality increased," Dr. Auge explained. “As a result, the turtle population experienced a nearly 70 per cent decline, with a significant drop in the number of adult females, crucial for sustaining the population.”
For her degree, Dr. Auge tracked turtles over four summers to determine population size, survival, movements and juvenile recruitment in an area of intensive development. She was able to compare findings to those from another research team working on site in the early 2010s and found the turtle population had declined significantly in the last decade. Dr, Auge’s research showed this decline occurred despite culverts, fences, and new wetlands put in place to protect turtles, as a condition of approval of development of the land. Through the projection models she developed, Dr. Auge is predicting the turtle population could be extinct in the next ten years if further measures are not undertaken.
"We need better, more effective conservation strategies, including long-term monitoring and species-specific measures,” Dr. Auge says.
The study was recently published in Animal Conservation and is expected to add a significant contribution to the field of conservation biology. The research was a collaboration between Dr. Anne-Christine Auge, Dr. Dennis Murray, Canada Research Chair in Integrative Wildlife Conservation at Trent, Dr. Gabriel Blouin-Demers (University of Ottawa), and Dr. Caleb Hasler (University of Winnipeg).