Reptiles and frogs use most land cover types as habitat in a fine-grained agricultural landscape

Stephanie A. Pulsford*, Philip S. Barton, Don A. Driscoll, Geoffrey M. Kay, David B. Lindenmayer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Agricultural landscapes comprise much of the earth's terrestrial surface. However, knowledge about how animals use and move through these landscapes is limited, especially for small and cryptic taxa, such as reptiles and amphibians. We aimed to understand the influence of land use on reptile and frog movement in a fine-grained grazing landscape. We surveyed reptiles and frogs using pitfall and funnel traps in transects located in five land use types: 1) woodland remnants, 2) grazed pastures, 3) coarse woody debris added to grazed pastures, 4) fences in grazed pastures and 5) linear plantings within grazed pastures. We found that the different land cover types influenced the types and distances moved by different species and groups of species. Reptiles moved both within, and out of, grazed paddocks more than they did in woodland remnants. In contrast, frogs exhibited varying movement behaviours. The smooth toadlet (Uperoleia laevigata) moved more often and longer distances within remnants than within paddocks. The spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) moved out of grazed pastures more than out of pastures with coarse woody debris added or fences and were never recaptured in plantings. We found that most recaptured reptiles and frogs (76.3%) did not move between trapping arrays, which added to evidence that they perceived most of the land cover types as habitat. We suggest that even simple fences may provide conduits for movement in the agricultural landscape for frogs. Otherwise, most reptile and frog species used all land cover types as habitat, though of varying quality. Reptiles appeared to perceive the woodland remnants as the highest quality habitat. This landscape is fine-grained which may facilitate movement and persistence due to high heterogeneity in vegetation cover over short distances. Therefore, intensification and increasing the size of human land use may have negative impacts on these taxa.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)502-513
    Number of pages12
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Volume43
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

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