The Influence of Time Since Burn on Herpetofaunal Abundance, Evenness, Richness and Diversity in a Post Oak Savannah
Caruana, Michelle Lea
MetadataShow full item record
As populations of reptiles and amphibians are at a global decline, land managers have limited resources dedicated to the control of herpetofaunal populations. Controlled burning is a common management tool, but the existing studies of the effect of fire on reptiles and amphibians remains sparsely scattered among many environment types and are often not thorough enough to provide accurate predictions on the effects of herpetofaunal populations to specific habitat types. I evaluated the effects of fire on the reptile and amphibian community at Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area in east Texas. The site has continuous burn treatments throughout the property, meaning the site burns often enough in some sections to create various degrees of burn times to study the effects on wildlife. There were 27 trap arrays installed across the property with 4 traps per array. I trapped during the first 12 days of every month starting in June and ending in August in 2016 and 2017. When checking traps, I recorded age, sex, weight, and marked each specimen by branding and pit tagging snakes and toe clipping lizards and amphibians. These were then subsequently released, some of which were recaptured and identified by the markings. I had a total of 246 individual captures from 21 species, across 1,795 array nights. Looking at my herpetofaunal captures I used an ANOVA to calculate abundance, evenness, richness, and diversity. Then I performed linear regressions on this data, which covered the topics of total abundance, evenness, richness, and diversity. It was also performed on the abundance from catch data of the most captured species, to determine if any of these showed significance. The species used for the regressions were any that comprised 10% or more of my captures, which include six-line racerunner, ground skink, fence lizard, coachwhip, and the grouping of true toads (bufonidae). The results suggest that time since burn had a subtle but significant negative relationship on the overall reptile and amphibian populations. The only exception to this was toad abundance, which showed a slight increase with time since burned. Abundances for six-lined racerunners and fence lizards declined with time since burn, while coachwhips and ground skinks were unaffected by time since burn. My results suggest that burning will minimally affect reptiles and amphibians. My research provides land managers with a better understanding of how prescribed burning impacts this neglected group of animals. Specifically managers can conduct prescribed burning to control populations like deer and other game species without drastically impacting herpetofauna. Should land managers desire to help the growth of reptiles and amphibians, they should adopt a more mosaic burn regime, as this will best benefit all herpetofauna.