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Desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) are threatened, extremely territorial reptiles living on a rapidly-shrinking landscape. This literature review was conducted with the goal of determining whether the desert tortoises of the Mojave Desert are experiencing compounded effects from construction development which are not reflected in mortality/fecundity calculations in the current literature. Seventeen peer-reviewed sources were identified from the last 20 years which related to roads, railroads, wind-harvesting, solar energy, and man-made barriers/flood control centers in the Mojave. Current literature reveals that researchers do not have the time nor resources to pursue long-term studies on all of the possible effects on this threatened species, largely because the desert tortoise reaches sexual maturity extraordinarily late. Likewise, because tortoises travel many miles for mating, they are likely to encounter more than one form of anthropogenic activity in their habitat. Because construction projects involve multiple disturbances to the landscape, these studies have not captured the full scope of threats these animals face. However, in spite of the “snapshot” provided by each of these studies, little has been done to implement the authors’ suggestions regarding construction development on desert landscapes. Although the authors were specific in their recommendations, these suggestions have been largely ignored by developers. In conclusion, short-term studies may not be the most effective approach for discovering the anthropogenic stressors placed on this species, and a long-term monitoring study with compounded effects taken into account would provide a more accurate projection of this species’ survival.

Publication Date

Spring 2021




Gopherus agassizii; Desert tortoise; Construction; Anthropogenic effects


Civil Engineering | Construction Engineering and Management | Environmental Engineering

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2541 KB


Faculty Mentor: Moses Karakouzian, Ph.D., P.E.

Collective Risk of Construction Development on Desert Tortoise Populations