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Abundance signals of amphibians and reptiles indicate strong edge effects in Neotropical fragmented forest landscapes

Schneider-Maunoury, Laure, Lefebvre, Veronique, Ewers, Robert M., Medina-Rangel, Guido.F., Peres, Carlos A., Somarriba, Eduardo, Urbina-Cardona, Nicolás, Pfeifer, Marion
Biological conservation 2016 v.200 pp. 207-215
amphibians, data collection, edge effects, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, habitats, landscapes, natural resources conservation, reptiles, tropical forests, tropics
Fragmentation and habitat loss contribute considerably to global declines of amphibians and reptiles. However, few studies focus on forest edges, created during the fragmentation process, as proximate drivers of the local demographic structure of populations. Here, we use abundance data of amphibians and reptiles to study their responses to forest edges in nine fragmented forested landscapes of the Neotropics. Species-specific abundance data were collected in plots established at varying distances from their respective nearest forest edge. We tested for edge effects on the abundance of species, and used curve clustering techniques to group species with similar edge responses, i.e. species with either increasing or decreasing abundance from the matrix towards the forest interior. We also grouped species that showed no change in abundance with respect to the nearest forest edge and those whose abundance response was unimodal, peaking in either forest habitat or the surrounding matrix habitat. We found that 96% of all amphibians and 90% of all reptiles showed an edge response, with the abundance of 74.5% of amphibians and 57.3% of reptiles decreasing with increasing proximity to forest edges. However, species-specific edge effects were not always consistent, with some species having opposite edge responses when measured in different landscapes. The depth of edge effects exhibited by forest species, i.e. species that increased in abundance in the forest interior, extended up to one kilometre away from forest edges. We show that the median edge effect on forest species extends to 250m within the forest interior, indicating that tropical forest patches with a mean diameter<500m (minimum area≈78ha) are unsuitable for half of forest-dependent species considered in this study.