Effects of Microhabitat Destruction on Reptile Abundance in Sonoran Desert Rock Outcrops

  • Goode M
  • Howland J
  • Sredl M
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While the effects of large-scale habitat loss on biodiversity are well known, effects of microhabitat loss have received less attention. Certain methods of reptile collection result in destruction of cracks, crevices, and other cool, moist microhabitats in desert rock outcrops. Microhabitat loss has become extensive and locally severe in some desert mountain ranges in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. We hypothesized that this type of microhabitat loss results in decreased abundance of reptiles. To test this hypothesis, we established plots in lightly and heavily disturbed areas and assessed them for microhabitat destruction and reptile abundance. Our results support the hypothesis that plots with higher disturbance levels have lower relative abundance of certain species of diurnal lizards. Of the four diurnal lizard species studied, relative abundance of two saxicolous (rock-dwelling) species was negatively correlated with level of microhabitat destruction while that of two non- saxicolous species was not. To help combat this serious and growing problem, we recommend careful management and protection of desert rock outcrops and education of collectors.

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  • Matthew J Goode

  • Jeffrey M Howland

  • Michael J Sredl

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