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Herpetofauna and riparian microhabitat of urban and wildland reaches along the Salt River, Arizona

Description

Worldwide, riverine floodplains are among the most endangered landscapes. In response to anthropogenic impacts, riverine restoration projects are considerably increasing. However, there is a paucity of information on how riparian

Worldwide, riverine floodplains are among the most endangered landscapes. In response to anthropogenic impacts, riverine restoration projects are considerably increasing. However, there is a paucity of information on how riparian rehabilitation activities impact non-avian wildlife communities. I evaluated herpetofauna abundance, species richness, diversity (i.e., Shannon and Simpson indices), species-specific responses, and riparian microhabitat characteristics along three reaches (i.e., wildland, urban rehabilitated, and urban disturbed) of the Salt River, Arizona. The surrounding uplands of the two urbanized reaches were dominated by the built environment (i.e., Phoenix metropolitan area). I predicted that greater diversity of microhabitat and lower urbanization would promote herpetofauna abundance, richness, and diversity. In 2010, at each reach, I performed herpetofauna visual surveys five times along eight transects (n=24) spanning the riparian zone. I quantified twenty one microhabitat characteristics such as ground substrate, vegetative cover, woody debris, tree stem density, and plant species richness along each transect. Herpetofauna species richness was the greatest along the wildland reach, and the lowest along the urban disturbed reach. The wildland reach had the greatest diversity indices, and diversity indices of the two urban reaches were similar. Abundance of herpetofauna was approximately six times lower along the urban disturbed reach compared to the two other reaches, which had similar abundances. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) reduced microhabitat variables to five factors, and significant differences among reaches were detected. Vegetation structure complexity, vegetation species richness, as well as densities of Prosopis (mesquite), Salix (willow), Populus (cottonwood), and animal burrows had a positive correlation with at least one of the three herpetofauna community parameter quantified (i.e., herpetofauna abundance, species richness, and diversity indices), and had a positive correlation with at least one herpetofauna species. Overall, rehabilitation activities positively influenced herpetofauna abundance and species richness, whereas urbanization negatively influenced herpetofauna diversity indices. Based on herpetofauna/microhabitat correlations established, I developed recommendations regarding microhabitat features that should be created in order to promote herpetofauna when rehabilitating degraded riparian systems. Recommendations are to plant vegetation of different growth habit, provide woody debris, plant Populus, Salix, and Prosopis of various ages and sizes, and to promote small mammal abundance.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011

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Microhabitat and movement assessment for northern Mexican gartersnakes (Thamnophis eques megalops) at Bubbling Ponds Hatchery, Arizona

Description

Species conservation requires an understanding of the habitats on which that species depends as well as how it moves within and among those habitats. Knowledge of these spatial and temporal

Species conservation requires an understanding of the habitats on which that species depends as well as how it moves within and among those habitats. Knowledge of these spatial and temporal patterns is vital for effective management and research study design. Bubbling Ponds Hatchery in Cornville, Arizona, supports a robust population of the northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops), which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. Natural resource managers are interested in understanding the ecology of gartersnakes at this site to guide hatchery operations and to serve as a model for habitat creation and restoration. My objectives were to identify habitat selection and activity patterns of northern Mexican gartersnakes at the hatchery and how frequency of monitoring affects study results. I deployed transmitters on 42 individual gartersnakes and documented macro- and microhabitat selection, daily and seasonal activity patterns, and movement distances. Habitat selection and movements were similar between males and females and varied seasonally. During the active season (March–October), snakes primarily selected wetland edge habitat with abundant cover and were more active and moved longer distances than during other parts of the year. Gestating females selected similar locations but with less dense cover. During the inactive season (November–February), snakes were less mobile and selected upland habitats, including rocky slopes with abundant vegetation. Snakes displayed diurnal patterns of activity. Estimates of daily distance traveled decreased with less-frequent monitoring; a sampling interval of once every 24 hours yielded only 53–62% of known daily distances moved during the active season. These results can help inform management activities and research design. Conservation of this species should incorporate a landscape-level approach that includes abundant wetland edge habitat with connected upland areas. Resource managers and researchers should carefully assess timing and frequency of activities in order to meet project objectives.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2017

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Longitudinal trends of bird community richness and abundance over fifteen years in the northern reaches of the sonoran desert

Description

Although many studies have identified environmental factors as primary drivers of bird richness and abundance, there is still uncertainty about the extent to which climate, topography and vegetation influence richness

Although many studies have identified environmental factors as primary drivers of bird richness and abundance, there is still uncertainty about the extent to which climate, topography and vegetation influence richness and abundance patterns seen in local extents of the northern Sonoran Desert. I investigated how bird richness and abundance differed between years and seasons and which environmental variables most influenced the patterns of richness and abundance in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area.

I compiled a geodatabase of climate, bioclimatic (interactions between precipitation and temperature), vegetation, soil, and topographical variables that are known to influence both richness and abundance and used 15 years of bird point count survey data from urban and non-urban sites established by Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project to test that relationship. I built generalized linear models (GLM) to elucidate the influence of each environmental variable on richness and abundance values taken from 47 sites. I used principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce 43 environmental variables to 9 synthetic factors influenced by measures of vegetation, climate, topography, and energy. I also used the PCA to identify uncorrelated raw variables and modeled bird richness and abundance with these uncorrelated environmental variables (EV) with GLM.

I found that bird richness and abundance were significantly different between seasons, but that richness and winter abundance were not significantly different across years. Bird richness was most influenced by soil characteristics and vegetation while abundance was most influenced by vegetation and climate. Models using EV as independent variables consistently outperformed those models using synthetically produced components from PCA. The results suggest that richness and abundance are both driven by climate and aspects of vegetation that may also be influenced by climate such as total annual precipitation and average temperature of the warmest quarter. Annual oscillations of bird richness and abundance throughout the urban Phoenix area seem to be strongly associated with climate and vegetation.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2019

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It All Comes Out in the Wash: Mammal Use of Riparian Corridors in Semi-Arid Sonora, Mexico

Description

Land use change driven by human population expansion continues to influence

the integrity and configuration of riparian corridors worldwide. Wildlife viability in semi-arid regions depend heavily on the connectivity of riparian

Land use change driven by human population expansion continues to influence

the integrity and configuration of riparian corridors worldwide. Wildlife viability in semi-arid regions depend heavily on the connectivity of riparian corridors, since water is the primary limiting resource. The Madrean Archipelago in northern Mexico and southwestern United States (US) is a biodiversity hotspot that supports imperiled wildlife like jaguar (Panthera onca) and ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Recent and ongoing infrastructure developments in the historically understudied US-México borderlands region, such as the border wall and expansion of Federal Highway 2, are altering wildlife movement and disconnecting essential habitat.

I used wildlife cameras to assess species occupancy, abundance, and related habitat variables affecting the use of washes as corridors for mammals in semi-arid Los Ojos (LO), a private ranch within a 530 km2 priority conservation area in Sonora, México located south of the border and Federal Highway 2. From October 2018 to April 2019, I deployed 21 wildlife cameras in five different riparian corridors within LO. I used single- season occupancy models and Royal Nichols abundance models to explore the relationship between habitat variables and use of riparian corridors by mammal communities of conservation concern within this region.

Twenty-one mammal species were recorded in the study area, including American black bear (Ursus americanus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the first sighting of jaguar (Panthera onca) in this region in 25 years. For the 11 medium- and large-bodied mammals recorded, habitat variables related to perennial river characteristics (distance to river, weekly water, and site width) and remoteness (distance from highway, elevation, and NDVI) were important for occupancy, but the direction of the relationship varied by species. For commonly observed species such as mountain lion (Puma concolor) and white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), topographic variety was highly informative for species abundance. These results highlight the importance of habitat diversity when identifying corridors for future protection to conserve wildlife communities in semi-arid regions. Additionally, this study provides robust evidence in support of mitigation measures (e.g. funnel fencing, over- or under- passes) along Federal Highway 2, and other barriers such as the border wall, to facilitate wildlife connectivity.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020