Lizard diversity on a rainforest–savanna altitude gradient in north-eastern Australia

Kutt, Alex, Bateman, Brooke, and Vanderduys, E.P. (2011) Lizard diversity on a rainforest–savanna altitude gradient in north-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology, 59 (2). pp. 86-94.

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Mountain ecosystems act as natural experiments for investigating the relationship between environmental heterogeneity and species diversity. A review of the global altitudinal distribution of reptiles identified a diverse range of patterns driven by climate and taxonomy. No Australian examples were included in this analysis. We addressed this gap by surveying the reptile assemblage along an altitude gradient from upland rainforest (~1000 m) through to open savanna woodlands (~350 m) in north-eastern Australia. Reptiles were sampled on four separate occasions between May 2006 and November 2007. Thirty-six species, representing seven families, were recorded along the gradient. As we used only diurnal active searching, snakes and nocturnal geckoes were probably under-sampled; thus we considered only lizards in the analysis of altitude pattern. Lizard species richness peaked at the mid-altitudes (600–900 m, 11–12 spp.) and abundance highest at the lower (<500 m) and higher (>800 m) zones. This pattern is likely a factor of both the increase in radiant heat sources (reduced canopy cover) and increased species packing due to the diversity of niches available (presence of rock cover and increase in saxicolous species). In the lower-altitude sites the high abundance of few species seems linked to the dominance of disturbance-tolerant species. We conclude that lizard richness and abundance patterns on this transect are not necessarily exhibiting a mid-domain effect, but instead are a function of species-specific ecological and habitat requirements.

Item ID: 20654
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1446-5698
Keywords: tropical, species richness, abundance, niche, Carlia, ecotone
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2012 06:02
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060809 Vertebrate Biology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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