Urbanization is one of the most rapidly expanding forms of habitat alteration worldwide. Wildlife differs in their responses to urbanization depending upon species and site-specific factors. We used capture-mark-recapture to examine the abundance, population demographics, growth, and movements of the eastern long-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis) in Australia over 1 year in a suburban environment and an adjacent nature reserve during drought. Contrary to expectations, sex ratios, injury incidence, and frequency of juvenile size classes did not differ between turtles in the suburbs and the nature reserve. Moreover, turtles in the suburbs were nearly 3 times more abundant, grew 5 times faster, and had populations comprised of more adults in the larger size classes than nature reserve populations. These findings, together with net movements from the nature reserves into the suburbs, suggest that suburban water bodies were the higher quality habitat, effectively buffering turtles from temporal fluctuations in environmental conditions during drought. However, reserve managers and urban planners need to recognize that suburban water bodies have the potential to attract turtles from nearby reserves during drought, and that even low levels of persistent mortality during these travels across reserve boundaries may have consequences for populations of long-lived vertebrates.
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