Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

James T. Anderson

Committee Member

Donald J. Brown

Committee Member

Jason A. Hubbart


The goal of wetland mitigation in the United States is to achieve a no-net-loss of wetlands; however, mitigated wetlands must be monitored to ensure wetland function is comparable to natural wetlands. In this study, relationships between land use practices and freshwater turtle abundance, wetland connectivity, and heavy metal bioaccumulation were investigated. In Chapter 1, a summary of pre-restoration species abundance and diversity is provided for anurans, birds, benthic macroinvertebrates, fishes, small mammals, plants, and turtles in riparian wetlands along Ruby Run, a tributary of Deckers Creek in north-central West Virginia, USA. These data provide a baseline for comparison after mitigation is completed to monitor effectiveness of achieving near-natural wetland function.

In Chapter 2, relationships between relative abundance of two common turtle species found in West Virginia (snapping turtles [Chelydra serpentina] and painted turtles [Chrysemys picta]) and habitat characteristics are investigated across 39 wetlands within the Upper Deckers Creek watershed in north-central West Virginia, USA. The effects of wetland and landscape characteristics on snapping turtle movement among wetlands are also assessed. Out of the 42 adult snapping turtles across 22 wetland sites (0.04–7.45 ha) that were equipped with radio transmitters, movement was documented among wetlands for 27 individuals (66%). Wetland perimeter, substrate depth, vegetative cover, and distance from roads were positively associated with snapping turtle relative abundance. Wetland perimeter and agriculture within 500 m were negatively associated with snapping turtle movement. Wetland vegetative cover and canopy cover were positively associated with painted turtle relative abundance. Landscape-level characteristics such as nearby farm ponds, wetlands, agriculture, and roads should be considered when developing wetland conservation plans to maximize turtle abundance. Wetland connectivity is important because snapping turtles and painted turtles regularly use a diversity of wetland types with abundant vegetation and natural surroundings.

In Chapter 3, the presence of cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and zinc concentrations is reported across sites within the Upper Deckers Creek watershed and relate landscape characteristics to concentrations found in wetland soil and turtle tissues. A total of 33 painted turtles and 24 snapping turtles across 22 sites were tested for metal concentrations through non-destructive tissue sampling (i.e. blood and nails). All metal concentrations were higher in nails than blood, but concentration differences between species varied across metals. Selenium levels in soil and turtle nails were positively correlated with proximity to mine land. Turtle nail lead concentrations were positively correlated with wetland soil Pb concentrations. Percent agriculture within 30 m of wetlands was negatively correlated with mercury in blood but positively correlated in nails, and all samples analyzed had mercury levels that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consumption limits. Proximity to these land use practices should be considered when implementing and managing wetlands and associated buffer areas. Guidelines for turtle consumption limits should be investigated further to ensure human health and safety.