Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Climate Change Ecology 5 (2023) 100072



Open Access


Climate forecasts suggest the Great Plains of North America have increased risk of droughts during global warming. Environmental factors have potential to influence turtle populations in aquatic habitats through temperature-dependent sex determination and influences on food availability. Long-term studies are critical to evaluate the influence of climatic variation on turtles. We used a 12-year set of mark-recapture data collected from painted turtles (Chrysemys picta, n = 162) in a pond in Keith County, Nebraska during 2005–2016 to assess variation in sex ratio and growth dynamics. Southwest Nebraska experienced two periods of drought during our study (Palmer Hydrologic Drought Index [PHDI] range: -4.5 to 6.7). Despite a relatively stable depth of water in our study pond, the proportion of males in the second size class (carapace length 95–130 mm) decreased when the PHDI during their incubation period indicated hotter, drier conditions. Discrete, mean annual growth (G) of females >30 mm below asymptotic carapace length was greater during wetter years (Gnon-drought = 15.0, Gdrought = 11.5), and a drought coefficient (D) in our modified von Bertalanffy model reflected reduced growth of both males (D = -0.0226) and females (D = -0.0393) during drought years. Our long-term research provides context to the complexity by which turtle species may respond to changes in long-term climate conditions.