Agassiz’s Desert Tortoise is a state- and federally-listed threatened species. Wind and solar energy development in desert tortoise habitat is one of several threats to this species. USGS science supports recovery efforts for the species, because populations have continued to decline in spite of designation of critical habitat and publication of a recovery plan1 . For example, between 2005 and 2014, populations in critical habitats declined about 50%2.
The Ivanpah Valley represents a hotspot of genetic diversity and connectivity for Agassiz’ desert tortoise that overlaps with utility scale solar development. USGS, University of Nevada-Reno, and other partners are developing and applying novel tracking, genetic tagging, and biomarkers for assessing movement, health and population connectivity in the greater Ivanpah Valley relative to landscape features and renewable energy development that promote or impede population connectivity.
1U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1994.
2U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2015.
Top Photo: Desert tortoise hatching. Photo courtesy of K. Kristina Drake, USGS.