Impacts of pastures and forestry plantations on herpetofauna: a global meta-analysis.
The establishment of pastures and forestry plantations has increased globally to meet growing demands for meat and wood products. Pasture and plantation expansion often drives deforestation, which causes homogenization of biotic communities and is a major driver of the global extinction crisis. A core question is how the severity of losses varies between pastures and plantations, and in turn, how geographical location and plantation management characteristics moderate these impacts. Focusing on herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) as the most endangered vertebrate group, we performed a global synthesis using 41 scientific articles that reported species richness or abundance in pastures and forestry plantations relative to natural forest in 191 case studies among 19 countries. We found a severe negative effect of pasture and a less negative effect of forestry plantations on species richness and abundance of herpetofauna. Within plantations, species richness and total abundance were more negatively impacted in amphibians than reptiles, in the tropics, when planting exotic tree species, monocultures, large or commercial plantations, and when clearing understory vegetation. Yet mixed, old, small or conservation plantations and those permitting recovery of understory vegetation had no negative impacts relative to the reference natural forest. Synthesis and applications. The loss of herpetofauna species richness and abundance underscores the importance of halting ongoing tropical deforestation for pasture and intensive forestry plantations. The potential for appropriately managed forestry plantations to support biodiversity in regions lacking forest cover, including via replacement of anthropogenic pastures, suggests that such plantations have an important role under global reforestation agendas.