The ecology and management of the gopher tortoise in the southeastern United States
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): J. E. Diemer
Publication Year: 1986

Cataloging Information

  • agriculture
  • Aristida stricta
  • biomass
  • catastrophic fires
  • Cladium mariscoides
  • community ecology
  • conservation
  • Crataegus
  • distribution
  • Drymarchon corais
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • ecotones
  • education
  • Eumeces
  • fire adaptations (animals)
  • fire adaptations (plants)
  • fire frequency
  • fire regimes
  • flatwoods
  • Florida
  • forest fragmentation
  • Georgia
  • Gopherus polyphemus
  • grasses
  • ground cover
  • habitat conversion
  • herbaceous vegetation
  • land use
  • logging
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • native species (animals)
  • native species (plants)
  • Neoseps reynoldsi
  • nesting
  • north Florida
  • nutrient cycling
  • nutrients
  • old fields
  • Peromyscus floridanus
  • pine hardwood forests
  • Pinus clausa
  • Pinus elliottii
  • Pinus palustris
  • plantations
  • population ecology
  • predation
  • public information
  • Quercus laevis
  • Rana aurora
  • reproduction
  • roads
  • sandhills
  • scrub
  • seed dispersal
  • site treatments
  • soil leaching
  • South Carolina
  • south Florida
  • succession
  • Taxodium distichum
  • threatened and endangered species (animals)
  • urban habitats
  • vulnerable species or communities
  • wildlife food habits
  • wildlife food plants
  • wildlife habitat management
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 40695
Tall Timbers Record Number: 15486
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Recent research on the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) has indicated its ecological importance, revealed reasons for its decline, and suggested management strategies. It is generally associated with the sandhill community but occurs in a variety of other natural and ruderal habitats. Limiting factors include well-drained sandy soil, adequate herbaceous food, and sunlit nesting sites. Tortoise densities and movements are related to herbaceous biomass. As the principal sandhill grazer, the gopher tortoise serves as a seed dispersal agent for native groundstory plants. The burrowing habits of the gopher tortoise return leached nutrients to the surface and the burrows provide refuges for many other species. Female gopher tortoises reach sexual maturity at 10-20 yr of age and produce a single annual clutch of about six eggs. Recruitment is reduced by heavy egg and hatchling predation. The major reasons for the decline of the gopher tortoise are habitat destruction, habitat degradation, and human predation. Recommended conservation measures include prescribed burning of sandhill habitat, establishment of preserves, protection from over-harvest restocking, and public education. ©1986 The Herpetologists' League, Inc. Abstract reproduced by permission.

Online Link(s):
Diemer, J. E. 1986. The ecology and management of the gopher tortoise in the southeastern United States. Herpetologica, v. 42, no. 1, p. 125-133.