Main content area

Species- and community-level responses to habitat spatial changes in fragmented rainforests: assessing compensatory dynamics in amphibians and reptiles

Russildi, Giovanni, Arroyo-Rodríguez, Víctor, Hernández-Ordóñez, Omar, Pineda, Eduardo, Reynoso, Víctor H.
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.2 pp. 375-392
amphibians, biodiversity, deforestation, habitats, landscapes, old-growth forests, population dynamics, rain forests, reptiles, surface water, tropical forests, Mexico
The rapid loss and degradation of tropical forests threatens the maintenance of biodiversity across different spatial scales. Nevertheless, the extirpation and population decline of some disturbance-sensitive species may be compensated for by colonization and proliferation of disturbance-adapted species, thus allowing distributions of community-level attributes (e.g., abundance and diversity) to be preserved in human-modified tropical landscapes. To test this poorly assessed hypothesis we evaluated species- and community-level responses of amphibians and reptiles to differences in forest patch (patch size, shape, and distance to water bodies) and landscape metrics (old-growth forest cover, degree of fragmentation, and matrix composition) in the fragmented Lacandona rainforest, Mexico. We found that the abundance of several amphibian and reptile species was strongly associated with forest patch and landscape attributes, being particularly higher in larger patches surrounded by a greater forest cover. Such changes at the species level generated notable changes in reptile communities. In particular, the abundance, diversity, and evenness of reptile communities were strongly related to patch size, patch shape, and matrix composition. Yet, because of compensatory dynamics in amphibians, this group showed weak responses at the community level. Despite such compensatory dynamics, our results indicate that forest loss at the patch and landscape levels represents the main threat to both amphibians and reptiles, thus indicating that to preserve herpetological communities in this biodiversity hotspot, conservation initiatives should be focused on preventing further deforestation.