, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 3243-3265
Date: 25 Jul 2012

Amphibian and reptile communities of rainforest fragments: minimum patch size to support high richness and abundance

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Information on animal communities inhabiting Neotropical fragmented landscapes is important for developing conservation strategies. The structure of amphibian and reptile communities in six tropical rainforest fragments (<20 ha) and two reference areas in continuous forest at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico was studied. A total of 3,481 individuals of 51 species of amphibians and reptiles were recorded across 12 bimonthly surveys during 2 years. Taxonomic composition was different between the smallest fragments and the reference areas. Six species were exclusive to large undisturbed forest and richness was significantly lower in the five smallest fragments (1.4–6.6 ha) compared with the largest patch, one or both of the reference areas. Amphibian abundance tended to be higher in large areas, while reptiles were more abundant in the five smallest fragments. Craugastor loki and Anolis uniformis were the dominant species in all sites, and particularly in the smaller fragments. Amphibian and reptile richness was positively related to larger patch sizes, deeper leaf litter, closed canopy cover, and higher relative humidity and negatively related to linear patch shape and high temperatures. Abundance of reptiles was positively associated to high temperatures, high density of woody debris, and closed canopy cover; it was negatively affected by linear patch shape, low humidity levels, and steeper slopes. While amphibian and reptile communities were strongly affected in vegetation fragments, these patches retained a considerable number of rainforest species. Fragments up to at least 17 ha have the potential for preserving communities with similar structure to those occurring in large tropical rainforests.

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-012-0362-7.