Effects of habitat alteration on lizard community and food web structure in a desert steppe ecosystem

Zeng, Zhi-Gao, Bi, Jun-Huai, Li, Shu-Ran, Chen, Shao-Yong, Pike, David A., Gao, Yuan, and Du, Wei-Guo (2014) Effects of habitat alteration on lizard community and food web structure in a desert steppe ecosystem. Biological Conservation, 179. pp. 86-92.

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Habitat alteration has major impacts on biodiversity, but we do not fully understand how changes in vegetation structure alter community interactions among vertebrate predators and their prey. Desertification is a major threat to degraded steppe habitats, prompting re-vegetation efforts to slow wind erosion. These processes alter both the structure and composition of the vegetation, and thus could influence predator and prey abundances, and their interactions. We investigated how habitat structure (degraded [sparse], natural [intermediate], or re-vegetated [dense]) influences lizard species richness, abundance, and diversity, and the interactions between these predators and invertebrate prey in the arid desert steppe. Structurally sparse and dense vegetation supported higher lizard abundances than natural habitats, with Phrynocephalus frontalis and Eremias argus dominating sparse and dense habitats respectively, and P. frontalis and E. multiocellata co-dominating natural habitats. Habitats that were structurally dense also supported the most complex trophic interactions among predators and prey, whereas structurally sparse habitats had low interaction diversity and interaction evenness, with most energy flowing along few trophic pathways. Steppe degradation therefore simplifies community trophic interactions, and restoration through enhanced protection of natural steppe habitat structure may play an important role in the conservation of healthy predator–prey communities. Desertification is a pressing issue throughout most of the arid steppe; revegetation efforts resulted in robust communities, in addition to promoting persistence of E. argus, which is endemic and threatened. Maintaining a heterogenous structural landscape thus may be the most promising way to combat desertification while at the same time restoring predator–prey community composition.

Item ID: 37067
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-2917
Keywords: community structure, conservation, desert steppe, habitat structure, invertebrate-lizard interaction, lizards
Funders: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2015 08:03
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960302 Climate Change Mitigation Strategies @ 50%
82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8298 Environmentally Sustainable Plant Production > 829899 Environmentally Sustainable Plant Production not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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