San Diego Management & Monitoring Program


Vegetation Community
Southwestern Pond Turtle Recovery Project

in progress

Project description

The southwestern pond turtle (Emys marmorata pallida) is California’s only extant native freshwater turtle and is in decline throughout its range, having been extirpated from much of coastal southern California. Historically, the pond turtle inhabited coastal draining streams, ponds, and lakes feeding primarily on small aquatic invertebrates and vegetation while having no native aquatic predators). However, threats to the pond turtle now include altered hydrology (dams and diversions), habitat fragmentation and direct mortality from roads and development, and predation by nonnative aquatic species including bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) and Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides). The San Diego Management and Monitoring Program (SDMMP) supports the MSCP and has developed the Management Strategic Plan to define the management area (the western portion of San Diego County; MSPA) with distinct management units (11 management units grouping preserves and preserve complexes; MU) within the MSPA to assist with prioritizing management actions to conserve the 75 species covered by the MSCP, including the pond turtle. Since 2002, USGS, in support of Sandag and SDMMP, has been conducting research on the natural history of southwestern pond turtle to understand the demography of rare and listed taxa in the region which includes the MSPA. This research includes studying the responses of the pond turtle to large scale threats, such as drought and wildfire, as well as smaller scale threats, such as from nonnative taxa. Specifically, our research seeks to understand the causes of decline of the pond turtle on conserved lands, which includes lands within the MSPA, and how the populations respond to management actions including pond turtle translocation and nonnative aquatic species removal.


Project focus

Project type: Habitat restoration

Target species: Southwestern pond turtle

Data steward: Chris Brown

Investigator: Robert N. Fisher

Main implementing entity: U.S. Geological Survey

Partner: California Department of Fish & Wildlife; San Diego Zoo

Point of contact: Chris Brown

Project Page manager: Sarah McCutcheon

SDMMP lead: Chris Brown

Study lead: Chris Brown


Files and Documents

2003 Arroyo Toad and Western Pond Turtle in the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program Area, 2002

Author(s):Meyer, Kathie; Ervin, Edward; Madden-Smith, Melanie; Hathaway, Stacie; Fisher, Robert N.

2020 Draft Final: Follow-up to Rancho Jamul and Sycuan Peak Western Pond Turtle Translocation June 2015–March 2017

Author(s):Brown, Chris; Grolle, Lizzie; Hitchcock, Cynthia J.; Fisher, Robert N.

2020 Draft Final: Western Pond Turtle Response to Translocation and Nonnative Aquatic Species Removal, March 2017–March 2018

Author(s):Brown, Chris; Grolle, Lizzie; Hitchcock, Cynthia J.; Fisher, Robert N.

2020 Draft Final: Western Pond Turtle Response to Translocation and Nonnative Aquatic Species Removal, March 2018–March 2019

Author(s):Brown, Chris; Clark, Denise; Hitchcock, Cynthia J.; Fisher, Robert N.

2018 Status and Management in San Diego County

Author(s):Brown, Chris

2015 Western Pond Turtle (Emys marmorata) Restoration and Enhancement in San Diego County, CA, 2013-2015

Author(s):Brown, Chris; Aguilar, Angelica; Madden, Melanie; Fisher, Robert N.

2015 Western Pond Turtle (Emys marmorata) Restoration and Enhancement in San Diego County, CA, 2013-2015

Author(s):Brown, Chris; Madden, Melanie; Aguilar, Angelica; Fisher, Robert N.

2003 Who let the turtles out?

Author(s):Fisher, Robert N.; Madden-Smith, Melanie; Meyer, Kathie