Distribution and ecology of amphibians and reptiles in a fragmented landscape, northeastern Bolivia

James Ian Watling, Florida International University


Habitat loss and fragmentation have been implicated as driving forces behind recent waves of extinction. The regional landscape where this study occurred is a mosaic of forest and grassland, and therefore provides an ideal system with which to investigate the implications of habitat patchiness for the distribution and ecology of organisms. Here I describe patterns of amphibian and reptile distribution among and within habitats at the study site, investigate associations between habitat and community structure, describe nested subset patterns on forest islands, and quantify the relationship between body size and density across ecological scales and taxonomic groups. Species richness did not vary across habitats, between forest island isolation classes or between island edges and cores. In contrast, species composition varied at all three ecological scales, reflecting differences in the distribution of both forest and open-habitat affiliated species. Species composition was associated with multivariate habitat profiles, with differences occurring along the isolation gradient of forest islands rather than the area gradient. The relationship between species composition and habitat was stronger for amphibians than for reptiles, a pattern that may be ascribed to physiological differences between the two groups. Analysis of nested subset pattern of community structure indicated that species composition of islands is nested as a function of isolation. Four species whose distribution on forest islands seems to be dispersal-limited drive the relationship between nestedness and isolation. Although there were several examples of shifts in body size across spatial scales and taxonomic groups, body size was not associated with density as predicted by theory, which may reflect differences between real and habitat islands, or differential responses of poikilothermic vertebrates to changes in density relative to homeotherms. Taken together, the strongest result to emerge from this research is the importance of isolation, rather than area, on community structure in this system. Much evidence suggested that different ecological groups of species show distinct patterns of distribution both within and among habitat types. This suggests that species distributions at this site are not the result of 'neutral' processes at the community level, but rather reflect fundamental differences in the ecology of component species.

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Recommended Citation

Watling, James Ian, "Distribution and ecology of amphibians and reptiles in a fragmented landscape, northeastern Bolivia" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3190964.