Remnant vegetation, plantings and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes.

Published online
10 Jan 2018
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Pulsford, S. A. & Driscoll, D. A. & Barton, P. S. & Lindenmayer, D. B.
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Managing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity conservation is increasingly difficult as land use is modified or intensified for production. Finding ways to mitigate the negative effects of agriculture on biodiversity is therefore critical. We asked the question: How do remnant patches, paddock types and grazing regimes influence reptile assemblages in a grazing landscape? At 12 sites, we surveyed reptiles and environmental covariates in remnant woodland patches and in four paddock types: (i) grazed pasture, (ii) linear plantings, (iii) coarse woody debris (CWD) added to grazed pasture and (iv) fences between grazed pasture. Each site was either continuously or rotationally grazed. Remnant vegetation and other vegetation attributes such as tree cover and leaf litter greatly influenced reptiles. We recorded higher reptile abundance and species richness in areas with more tree cover and leaf litter. For rare species (captured in ≤4 sites <70 captures), there were 5.7 more animals and 2.6 more species in sites with 50% woody cover within 3 km compared to 5% woody cover. The abundance and richness of rare species, and one common species differed between paddock types and were higher in linear plantings and fence transects compared to CWD and pasture transects. Synthesis and applications. Grazed paddocks, particularly those with key features such as fences and plantings can provide habitat for reptiles. This suggests that discrete differentiation between patch and matrix does not apply for reptiles in these systems. Management to promote reptile conservation in agricultural landscapes should involve protecting existing remnant vegetation, regardless of amount; and promote key habitat features of trees, leaf litter and shrubs. Establishing plantings and fences is important as they support high numbers of less common reptiles and may facilitate reptiles to move through and use greater amounts of the landscape.

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