Freshwater turtle community composition in strip pit lakes on mined lands


Creating and managing undeveloped lands is important for the perpetuation of species and communities they comprise, particularly for turtles, which are often impacted by human disturbance and are ill-equipped to adapt to sustained anthropogenic disturbance. Reclaimed land at the site of former surface mining operations often provides a large matrix of wetland, prairie, and woodland habitat that is protected from development. Such sites support robust communities of birds and amphibians, but few investigations have assessed their suitability for aquatic reptiles. To examine their suitability for turtle communities, we surveyed strip pit lakes and naturally occurring lakes at Mined Lands Wildlife Area in southeastern Kansas, USA. Community composition was different between the two classes of wetland due to differences in the abundance of Chelydra serpentina serpentina (Eastern Snapping Turtle), Chrysemys picta bellii (Western Painted Turtle), and Sternotherus odoratus (Eastern Musk Turtle). Catch per unit effort, however, only varied significantly for C. s. serpentina, which were captured at lower rates in strip pits. All other species were at least as abundant in strip pit lakes as in natural lakes, and C. p. bellii were slightly more abundant in strip pits. Sternotherus odoratus were very abundant in a single strip pit lake. Canonical correspondence analysis associated C. s. serpentina with shallow water and high percentage of canopy cover, while C. p. bellii were associated with deep water. Sternotherus odoratus were associated with abundant submerged vegetation; however, habitat features only explained 12% of the variation in species occurrence. Strip pit lakes appear to provide suitable habitat for most of the turtle species encountered, with the notable exception of C. s. serpentina, and may even be preferred over natural oxbows by some species.



Document Type



Chelydra serpentina, Chrysemys picta, Community, Habitat, Mined lands, Reclamation

Publication Date


Journal Title

Herpetological Conservation and Biology