Species of conservation concern and indicator species

The longleaf pine ecosystem has long been recognized for its diverse wildlife species, many of which are of conservation importance due to their declining populations.

The red-cockaded woodpeckers are perhaps the most well-known of these and through our Conservation Management program, we have reintroduced this species to Ichauway.

We also have natural populations of several species of conservation concern such as the Florida gopher frog, gopher tortoise, Florida pine snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, southern hognose snake, southeastern pocket gopher, and fox squirrel. We monitor populations of several of these species as part of our core data collection efforts and some are also the focus of targeted research. For example, Ichauway is part of a range-wide study to evaluate the status of and determine how to reintroduce an ecological engineer, the southeastern pocket gopher.

Ichauway has the largest population of gopher tortoises on a protected area in Georgia. The species is protected in all six states in which it occurs and is a candidate for federal listing as threatened. Demographic research on gopher tortoises associated with our animal interactions theme has contributed to our understanding of the ecology of this species and our population monitoring efforts have demonstrated that the population is increasing. We are exploring our existing data sets for direct linkages between population increases and habitat management. We have adapted the line transect distance sampling methodology for gopher tortoise monitoring and have published a workbook detailing the methodology. This more accurate survey protocol has been adopted by most agencies and biologists working with gopher tortoise across its range. We also host regular trainings for those interested in applying these methods.

Key Publications

Dziadzio, M. C., L. L. Smith, R. B. Chandler, and S. B. Castleberry. 2016. Effect of nest location on gopher tortoise survival. Journal of Wildlife Management 80:1314-1322.
Dziadzio, M. C., R. D. Chandler, L. L. Smith, and S. B. Castleberry. 2016. Impacts of red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) on nestling and hatchling gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) in southwest Georgia USA. Herpetological Conservation & Biology 11:527-538. pdf
Farmer, A. L., K. M. Enge, J. B. Jensen, D. J. Stevenson, and L. L. Smith. 2017. A range-wide assessment of the status and distribution of the striped newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 12:585-598. pdf
McIntyre, R. K., L. M. Conner, S. B. Jack, E. M. Schlimm, L. L. Smith. 2019. Wildlife habitat condition in open pine woodlands: Field data to refine management targets. Forest Ecology and Management 437:282-294 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2019.01.045
Schulte, L. A., R. J. Mitchell, M. L. Hunter, Jr., J. F. Franklin, R. K. McIntyre, and B. J. Palik. 2006. Evaluating the conceptual tools for forest biodiversity conservation and their implementation in the U.S. Forest Ecology and Management 232:1-11.
Smith, L. L., M. Hinderliter, R. S. Taylor, and J. M. Howze. 2015. Recommendation for gopher tortoise burrow buffer to avoid collapse from heavy equipment. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 6(2):456-463. pdf
Stober, J. M., R. Prieto-Gonzalez, L. L. Smith, T. A. Marquez, and L. Thomas. 2017. Techniques for estimating the size of low-density gopher tortoise populations. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 8:377-386. pdf
Warren, A. E., L. M. Conner, S. B. Castleberry, and D. Markewitz. 2017. Home range, survival, and activity patterns of the southeastern pocket gopher: implications for translocation. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 8:544-557. pdf