Energy and Wildlife: Research

Desert Tortoise

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.

Research Highlights

Desert Tortoise Population Connectivity

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.

Recent Publications

Turbines and terrestrial vertebrates: variation in tortoise survivorship between a wind energy facility and an adjacent undisturbed wildland area in the desert southwest (USA)

Desert Tortoise Annotated Bibliography, 1991-2015

Effects of wind energy production on growth, demography and survivorship of a desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) population in southern California with comparisons to natural populations

Lead Scientists

Jeffrey Lovich
Southwest Biological Science Center
p: (928) 556-7358

Todd Esque
Western Ecological Research Center
p: (702) 564-4506


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.