Distribution, abundance, and habitat use of introduced Boa constrictor threatening the native biota of Cozumel Island, Mexico

  • Irene Romero-Nájera
  • Alfredo D. Cuarón
  • Cristopher González-Baca
Original Paper

Abstract

Species introductions are among the most pervasive types of disturbance, seriously affecting island biota and ecosystem dynamics. The management of introduced generalist species, which may live in a wide range of environmental conditions, can be particularly difficult and is a major challenge for the conservation of native insular species. Boa constrictor was introduced onto Cozumel Island, Mexico, in 1971. The introduction of this generalist predator has affected negatively the native species (many of them endemic to the island) on which the boa feed. It is important to determine temporal variation in boa abundance, the areas of the island in which boas live, and the vegetation types they use in order to develop management strategies to reduce boa pressure on the native biota. We used nocturnal road transect sampling and occasional boa encounters during field work, to estimate boa distribution, abundance and habitat use, taking into account its spatiotemporal patterns on Cozumel Island. This study confirms that Boa constrictor is well established, widespread, and abundant on the island. Our results show that boas are distributed throughout Cozumel, in all vegetation types and geographical regions. Overall, there were 0.11 ±  0.03 boa/10 km road transect. There were no significant spatiotemporal differences in boa activity (time of day) and abundance (monthly, seasonally, by vegetation types or regions of the island). According to the habitat use analysis, there were, however, fewer boas than expected in the subdeciduous tropical forest we sampled and in the central-northern region of the island, which coincide with areas inhabited by humans. There were more boas in areas uninhabited by humans, and there was a tendency towards a greater proportion of dead boas in inhabited areas and live boas in uninhabited areas. Cozumel boas are habitat generalists, which are affected by human induced mortality in inhabited areas. There is a vast area uninhabited by humans, with natural vegetation, on the island where boas have suitable habitats available for their continuous existence on Cozumel. This situation, and the adaptability of the boa, makes the control or eradication of this introduced species a critical conservation challenge.

Keywords

Abundance Boa constrictor Cozumel Island Habitat use Introduced species Mexico 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene Romero-Nájera
    • 1
  • Alfredo D. Cuarón
    • 2
    • 3
  • Cristopher González-Baca
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Investigaciones en EcosistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMéxico
  2. 2.Departamento de Etología y Fauna Silvestre, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y ZootecniaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMéxico, D.F.México
  3. 3.Durrell Wildlife Conservation TrustMoreliaMéxico

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