The importance of defining focal assemblages when evaluating amphibian and reptile responses to land use
Habitat loss and degradation are primary threats to amphibians and reptiles, but the relative effects of common land uses on assemblages and the mechanisms that underlie faunal responses are poorly studied. We reviewed the effects of four prevalent types of habitat alteration (urbanization, agriculture, livestock grazing, and silviculture) on amphibian and reptile species richness and abundance by summarizing reported responses in the literature and by estimating effect sizes across studies for species richness in each land‐use type. We then used a multinomial model to classify species as natural habitat specialists, generalists, and disturbed habitat specialists and examined variation in effect sizes for each land‐use type according to habitat specialization categories. There were mixed conclusions from individual studies, some reporting negative, neutral, or positive effects of land use on species richness and total abundance. A large proportion of studies reported species‐specific effects of individual species abundance. However, in our analysis of effect sizes, we found a general trend of negative effects of land use on species richness. We also demonstrate that habitat associations of common species and species turnover can explain variation in the effect of land use on herpetofauna. Our review highlights the pervasive negative effects of common land uses on amphibians and reptiles, the importance of identifying groups vulnerable to land‐use change (e.g., forest‐associated species) in conservation studies, and the potential influence of disturbance‐associated species on whole assemblage analyses.
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