Secondary vegetation, associated with changes in land use, presents a conservation issue in the preservation of biological diversity in agricultural landscapes. We examine the interactive effect of eucalypt regrowth and rock habitat on reptile species richness and assemblage structure in fragmented agricultural landscapes in south-eastern Australia. Zoogeographic and geomorphic factors influenced species richness and community composition. Saxicolous and arboreal species were less abundant in grassy woodland regrowth, whereas Bassian and fossorial species responded positively to forest regrowth (and tree plantings). Regrowth with rock habitat had higher reptile richness, and more old growth-associated taxa, than regrowth without rock habitat. Thus, the presence of saxicolous habitat can reduce the time required for regrowth to attain a climax community structure and elements of old growth fauna. However, in the absence of vegetation management, secondary vegetation can reduce habitat suitability for a broad range of reptiles. In agricultural landscapes historically supporting savannah-like vegetation, habitat manipulation may be necessary to maintain reptile diversity. Furthermore, tree plantings in temperate agricultural landscapes should aim to restore historical vegetation composition and structure, thereby reflecting the habitat requirements of extant species and facilitating evolutionary processes. In grassy woodland ecosystems, this may involve heterogeneous plantings which emulate natural levels of canopy cover and solar penetration. Maintaining biodiversity in agricultural landscapes will therefore involve managing trade-offs to preserve areas of dense regeneration for regrowth-dependant fauna, while at the same time, creating open-canopy environments to enhance habitat for ectothermic organisms.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2011
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