The impacts of ski resorts on reptiles: A natural experiment

C. F. Sato*, J. T. Wood, M. Schroder, K. Green, D. R. Michael, D. B. Lindenmayer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Alpine-subalpine areas are sensitive environments that support large numbers of endemic species. They are also popular for human recreation. Increasing demands for tourism means that infrastructure in alpine resorts is expanding. Consequently, habitat is being modified and fragmented, potentially adversely affecting fauna. However, research investigating the effects of ski resorts on wildlife, particularly reptiles, is limited, and the effectiveness of management strategies in mitigating adverse impacts is unknown. To quantify the effects of ski-related disturbances on specialist and generalist reptile species, we surveyed sites in disturbed and undisturbed subalpine habitats. We also examined vegetation composition and habitat structure to determine whether structural or compositional habitat features were driving patterns of reptile occurrence. Our results indicate that the effects of ski-related disturbance varied between species, but that adverse effects - particularly on ski runs - were more pronounced for specialists. Given that each species studied was positively associated with compositional or structural features of the environment, we argue that alterations to these habitat attributes when creating ski runs will suppress lizard abundances in these areas. However, while ski runs have an adverse effect on reptiles, the persistence of these animals in ski resorts can be facilitated by retaining habitat structure and minimizing disturbance to native vegetation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)313-322
    Number of pages10
    JournalAnimal Conservation
    Volume17
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

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