Tropical reptiles in pine forests: assemblage responses to plantations and plantation management by burning

Mott, Beth, Alford, Ross A., and Schwarzkopf, Lin (2010) Tropical reptiles in pine forests: assemblage responses to plantations and plantation management by burning. Forest Ecology and Management, 259 (5). pp. 916-925.

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Abstract

Worldwide, the land area devoted to timber plantations is expanding rapidly, especially in the tropics, where reptile diversity is high. The impacts of plantation forestry and its management on native species are poorly known, but are important, because plantation management goals often include protecting biodiversity. We examined the impact of pine (Pinus caribaea) plantations, and their management by fire, on the abundance and richness of reptiles, a significant proportion of the native biodiversity in tropical northern Australia, by (i) comparing abundance and diversity of reptiles among pine plantations (on land cleared specifically for plantation establishment), and two adjacent native forest types, eucalypt and Melaleuca woodlands, and (ii) comparing reptile abundance and richness in pine forest burnt one year prior to the study to remove understorey vegetation with pine forest burnt two years prior to the study. We also examined the influence of fire on reptile assemblages in native vegetation, by comparing eucalypt woodland burnt two years prior to the study and unburnt for eight years. To quantify mechanisms driving differences in reptile richness and abundance among forest types and management regimes, we measured forest structure, the temperatures used by reptiles (operative temperature) and solar radiation, at replicate sites in all forest types and management regimes. Compared to native forests, pine forests had taller trees, lower shrub cover in the understorey, more and deeper exotic litter (other than pine), and were cooler and shadier. Reptile assemblages in pine forests were as rich as those in native forests, but pine assemblages were composed mainly of species that typically use closed-canopy rainforest and prefer cooler, shadier habitats. Burning did not appear to influence the assemblage structure of reptiles in native forest, but burning under pine was associated with increased skink abundance and species richness. Burned pine was not warmer or sunnier than unburned pine, a common driver of reptile abundance, so the shift in lizard use after burning may have been driven by structural differences in understorey vegetation, especially amounts of non-native litter, which were reduced by burning. Thus, burning for management under pine increased the abundance and richness of lizard assemblages using pine. Pine plantations do not support the snake diversity common to sclerophyllous native forests, but pine may have the potential to complement rainforest lizard diversity if appropriately managed.

Item ID: 10628
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-7042
Keywords: tropical biology; plantation forestry; reptile assemblage structure; tropical reptiles; forest management; biodiversity; pine; lizards; snakes; assemblage composition, Effects of plantations, Exotic timber, Operative environmental temperatures, Solar radiation
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2010 03:31
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0705 Forestry Sciences > 070504 Forestry Management and Environment @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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