World Turtle Room, 07/10/2018
Threatened turtles of the Pearl River
The Pearl River system hosts two unique turtle species: the Ringed Sawback (Graptemys oculifera) and the Pearl Map Turtle (Graptemys pearlensis). Neither of these species can be found anywhere else in the world… only the Pearl River system of Mississippi and Louisiana! The Ringed Sawback was designated as federally threatened in 1986, while the Pearl Map Turtle was petitioned in 2011 to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Both turtle species are of conservation concern for a number of reasons mainly associated with alterations to their river habitat. Alterations include construction of dams, channelization of rivers, and excess river sedimentation.
Millsaps College students and Will Selman have been conducting surveys for the Ringed Sawback and Pearl Map Turtle over the last couple of summers in the Jackson area. Our surveys are inclusive of the One Lake Project Area (i.e., where the lake will be constructed), and our surveys also include both upstream and downstream segments of the Project Area. The data we have collected over the last couple of summers are in contradiction to many of the statements recently published in the Integrated Draft Feasibility & Environmental Impact Statement (hereafter, draft EIS) by the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood Drainage and Control District. Below I highlight a few of our findings and compare them to the draft EIS.
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Photo from Will Selman.