Urban and wildland herpetofauna communities and riparian microhabitats along the Salt River, Arizona
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Metropolitan areas are continually expanding, resulting in increasing impacts on ecosystems. Worldwide, riverine floodplains are among the most endangered landscapes and are often the focus of restoration activities. Amphibians and reptiles have valuable ecological roles in ecosystems, and promoting their abundance and diversity when rehabilitating riparian systems can contribute to reestablishing degraded ecosystem functions. We evaluated the herpetofauna community by measuring abundance, richness, diversity, and species-habitat relations along three reaches (wildland, urban rehabilitated, and urban disturbed reaches) varying in degree of urbanization and rehabilitation along the Salt River in central Arizona. We performed visual surveys for herpetofauna and quantified riparian microhabitat along eight transects per reach. The wildland reach had the greatest herpetofauna species richness and diversity, and had similar abundance compared to the urban rehabilitated reach. The urban disturbed reach had the lowest herpetofauna abundance and species richness, and had a similar diversity compared to the urban rehabilitated reach. Principal Component Analysis reduced 21 microhabitat variables to five factors which described habitat differences among reaches. Vegetation structural complexity, vegetation species richness, densities of Prosopis (mesquite), Salix (willow), Populus (cottonwood), and animal burrow density had a positive correlation with at least one herpetofauna community parameter, and had a positive correlation with abundance of at least one lizard species. Rehabilitation activities positively influenced herpetofauna abundance and species richness; whereas, urbanization negatively influenced herpetofauna diversity. Based on herpetofauna-microhabitat associations, we recommend urban natural resource managers increase vegetation structural complexity and woody debris to improve herpetofauna habitat when rehabilitating degraded riparian systems.