Disturbances can affect the structure of ecological communities, and their impacts may have consequences for individual species' population dynamics and long-term persistence. Even without catastrophic mortality, survivorship could be reduced following a disturbance, thus leading to population decline. We used a 16-year mark–recapture dataset to determine the effects of catastrophic storms and the cutting of nonindigenous vegetation on the survivorship and abundance of a population of long-lived terrestrial turtles (Terrapene bauri). Our results indicate that these habitat disturbances had little long-term effect on abundance. Indeed, the population continued to grow despite severe changes to its habitat, although recapture probabilities decreased through time. Tertiary (adult) sex ratios became more highly skewed temporarily but eventually approached their predisturbance levels. In long-lived box turtles, short-term disturbances may alter growth rates and dispersal tendencies, but they appear to have little long-term effect on abundance as long as initial mortality is not severe and food resources remain available.
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Vol. 11 • No. 1