Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) Photo credit: Danielle O’Dell

We have great news to share from NCF’s Science and Stewardship Department! The scientific journal Wetlands Ecology and Management recently published our manuscript titled “Changes to spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) habitat selection in response to a salt marsh restoration”.

The work referenced in this manuscript stems from a long-term research project on changes to spotted turtle home ranges and habitat use before and after restoring tidal hydrology to the impounded Medouie Creek wetland complex on the north side of Polpis Harbor. This was a case where the foundation had to weigh the many important long-term net benefits of salt marsh restoration with the potential to negatively impact a freshwater species that had moved in to the impounded wetlands. Fortunately, the lands immediately adjacent to the Medouie Creek salt marsh contain a plethora of wooded shrub swamps and vernal pools that provide perfect habitat for much of Medouie’s spotted turtle population.

The abstract for the paper is below and if you would like to read the entire manuscript, please email Danielle O’Dell at to obtain a copy!

ABSTRACT – The development of coastal New England has led to the replacement of up to 37% of salt marshes with degraded freshwater wetlands, primarily through tidal restrictions. Removing these restrictions to restore salt marsh ecology improves water quality, increases flood and storm protection, nutrient filtration, erosion control, and carbon sequestration. However, these restorations replace functional freshwater wetlands and potentially impact important freshwater species. Freshwater-dependent wildlife species such as the spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata), may be especially vulnerable to rapid changes in habitat resulting from tidal reintroduction due to their high site fidelity and limited ability to disperse quickly. Conservation of genetically and physically isolated spotted turtle populations as well as the restoration of salt marshes to mitigate climate change impacts are both high priorities on Nantucket Island. These two priorities conflicted in a project to restore tidal hydrology to an impounded freshwater marsh known to host a robust spotted turtle population. We evaluated changes to spotted turtle home range size and location and habitat use in response to salt marsh restoration over eight years. Home range size did not change but the location of home ranges shifted into bordering wetlands landward of the tidal salt water influence. Spotted turtles selected freshwater marshes and shrub swamps while avoiding developed land and areas of establishing salt marsh within areas that had previously been high quality habitat. This study suggests prioritizing conservation of wetlands adjacent to planned salt marsh restoration to provide habitat for freshwater species to migrate.

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