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Response of lizards to high-severity wildfires in a southern United States mixed pine/hardwood forest

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​Duarte, Adam; Brown, Donald J.; Forstner, Michael R. J.

Year Published

2017

Publication

Copeia. 105(4): 609-617.

Abstract

High-severity forest fires are increasing in large areas of the southern and western United States as the climate becomes warmer and drier. Natural resource managers need a better understanding of the short- and long-term effects of wildfires on lizard populations, but there is a paucity of studies focused on lizard-wildfire relationships. We used a before-after, control-impact (BACI) sample design to assess the response of three lizard species—Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata), Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus), and Little Brown Skink (Scincella lateralis)—to highseverity wildfires that occurred in the Lost Pines Ecoregion, Texas, USA. Specifically, we analyzed monitoring data collected across 17 trapping sessions from spring 2008 to spring 2013 using stratified N-mixture models to estimate trends in lizard abundances, while accounting for environmental parameters that might influence lizard detectability. We found no evidence of a fire-induced change in abundance for any of the lizard species we studied, but there was an increase in detectability of A. sexlineata following the wildfires. Detectability of A. sexlineata and S. lateralis increased with air temperature, detectability of S. consobrinus decreased with precipitation, and detectability was related to Julian day for all three species. Mean detection probabilities were low (<0.1), suggesting capture-mark-recapture methods at a subset of sample units should be implemented to derive more accurate estimates in future monitoring efforts. Our results provide quantitative evidence of the short-term effects of high-severity wildfires on three widely distributed lizard species. Given the wildfires did not result in decreased lizard abundances, managers should minimize their vehicle footprints off of roads during post-wildfire habitat restoration to avoid soil compaction and the potential for direct mortality.

Citation

​Duarte, Adam; Brown, Donald J.; Forstner, Michael R. J. 2017. Response of lizards to high-severity wildfires in a southern United States mixed pine/hardwood forest. Copeia. 105(4): 609-617. https://doi.org/10.1643/CH-16-516.

Last updated on: March 1, 2018