Landscape Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 829–841 | Cite as

Spatial dynamics of the knob-tailed gecko Nephrurus stellatus in a fragmented agricultural landscape

  • Don A. Driscoll
  • Catherine A. Whitehead
  • Juliana Lazzari
Research Article


In fragmented landscapes, a species’ dispersal ability and response to habitat condition are key determinants of persistence. To understand the relative importance of dispersal and condition for survival of Nephrurus stellatus (Gekkonidae) in southern Australia, we surveyed 92 woodland remnants three times. This gecko favours early post-fire succession conditions so may be at risk of extinction in the long-unburnt agricultural landscape. Using N-mixture models, we compared the influence of four measures of isolation, patch area and two habitat variables on the abundance and occurrence of N. stellatus, while taking into account detection probability. Patch occupancy was high, despite the long-term absence of fire from most remnants. Distance to the nearest occupied site was the most informative measure of patch isolation, exhibiting a negative relationship with occupancy. Distance to a nearby conservation park had little influence, suggesting that mainland–island metapopulation dynamics are not important. Abundance and occurrence were positively related to  %-cover of spinifex (Triodia), indicating that niche-related factors may also contribute to spatial dynamics. Patterns of patch occupancy imply that N. stellatus has a sequence of spatial dynamics across an isolation gradient, with patchy populations and source-sink dynamics when patches are within 300 m, metapopulations at intermediate isolation, and declining populations when patches are separated by >1–2 km. Considering the conservation needs of the community, habitat condition and connectivity may need to be improved before fire can be reintroduced to the landscape. We speculate that fire may interact with habitat degradation and isolation, increasing the risk of local extinctions.


Metacommunity Reptile Patch-matrix model Invasive weeds Land clearing 



We thank Annabel Smith, Jake Overton and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on earlier drafts. We are grateful for accommodation provided by David McKenna and Frank and Judy Schaefer and we thank all of the landholders who permitted access to their properties. Thanks to Hong Kuch, Mailyn Thomas, Angus Kennedy, Anni Walsh and Ollanta Lipcer for their assistance in the field. The project was funded by the Australian Research Council, Native Vegetation Council of South Australia, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Australia, and the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. DD was supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program. This research was completed under the ANU Animal Experimentation Ethics project number S.RE.09.09, the South Australian Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Scientific Research Permit K25737-3, and the South Australian Government, Wildlife Ethics 26/2009-M1.

Supplementary material

10980_2012_9734_MOESM1_ESM.doc (130 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 131 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don A. Driscoll
    • 1
  • Catherine A. Whitehead
    • 2
  • Juliana Lazzari
    • 1
  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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