We monitored Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera) using mark-recapture during 1994-2005 in Gin Creek, Searcy, Arkansas. In 1997-2000 the creek bed and riparian zone were bulldozed in an effort to remove debris and improve water flow. This disturbance appeared to reduce the quantity and quality of turtle habitat. We tested for the potential effect of this habitat disturbance on the survival rates of marked turtles. We estimated annual survival rates for the population using models that allowed for variation in survival by state of maturation, year, and effects of the disturbance; we evaluated two different models of the disturbance impact. The first disturbance model incorporated a single change in survival rates, following the disturbance, whereas the second disturbance model incorporated three survival rates: pre- and postdisturbance, as well as a short-term decline during the disturbance. We used a state-transition model for our mark-recapture analysis, as softshells transition from juveniles to adults in a variable period of time. Our analysis indicated that survival varied by maturation state and was independent of a time trend or the disturbance. Annual survival rates were lower for juveniles (S?? = 0.717, SE = 0.039) than for adults (S?? = 0.836, SE = 0.025). Despite the dramatic habitat disturbance, we found no negative effects on survival rates. Our results demonstrate that, like a few other freshwater turtle species known to thrive in urban environments, populations of A. spinifera are resilient and can persist in urban environments despite periodic habitat disturbances. Copyright 2008 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.
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Effects of habitat disturbance on survival rates of softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera) in an urban stream