Opposing resonses to ecological gradients structure amphibian and reptile communities across a temperate grassland-savanna-forest landscape

Biodiversity and Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

Temperate savannas are threatened across the globe. If we prioritize savanna restoration, we should ask how savanna animal communities differ from communities in related open habitats and forests. We documented distribution of amphibian and reptile species across an open-savanna–forest gradient in the Midwest U.S. to determine how fire history and habitat structure affected herpetofaunal community composition. The transition from open habitats to forests was a transition from higher reptile abundance to higher amphibian abundance and the intermediate savanna landscape supported the most species overall. These differences warn against assuming that amphibian and reptile communities will have similar ecological responses to habitat structure. Richness and abundance also often responded in opposite directions to some habitat characteristics, such as cover of bare ground or litter. Herpetofaunal community species composition changed along a fire gradient from infrequent and recent fires to frequent but less recent fires. Nearby (200-m) wetland cover was relatively unimportant in predicting overall herpetofaunal community composition while fire history and fire-related canopy and ground cover were more important predictors of composition, diversity, and abundance. Increased developed cover was negatively related to richness and abundance. This indicates the importance of fire history and fire related landscape characteristics, and the negative effects of development, in shaping the upland herpetofaunal community along the native grassland–forest continuum.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Opposing resonses to ecological gradients structure amphibian and reptile communities across a temperate grassland-savanna-forest landscape
Series title Biodiversity and Conservation
DOI 10.1007/s10531-014-0844-x
Volume 24
Issue 5
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Chapman & Hall
Publisher location London
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 20 p.
First page 1089
Last page 1108
Country United States
State Indiana
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N