Decadal abundance patterns in an isolated urban reptile assemblage: Monitoring under a changing climate

Richard A. How, Mark A. Cowan, Jason R. How

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Determine seasonal, annual, and decadal patterns of abundance in reptile species and assemblages occupying central Bold Park (~338 ha), an isolated urban bushland remnant in Perth, Southwestern Australia. Fenced pitfall trapping in four sampling sites, representing different habitats and fire history, over the primary reptile activity period for 35 consecutive years with over 17,000 individuals captured during 3300 days of sampling; the trapping regime was modified for the last 28 years. Sampling occurred in one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots that has a Mediterranean climate experiencing a 15% decline from the century average rainfall over the last 50 years. Twenty-nine species were recorded, with 16 captured in 32 or more years and accounting for nearly 97% of all captures; the six most common for 81%. Three taxa became locally extinct. Activity predominates in warmer and dryer months (October to April), peaking in November–December. Species richness remained relatively constant between years with around 73% of known taxa captured annually. Assemblages did not change when analyzing the presence/absence data but moved through five statistically significant assemblages analyzing relative abundance data. Over the last 28 years, relative abundance was significantly and positively correlated with annual rainfall residuals, uniquely for the 4 years preceding annual sampling, resulting in significant changes in total assemblages and significantly similar patterns in four sample sites; the presence/absence data indicated only minor assemblage changes across sites. The number of species recorded annually remained relatively constant, but relative abundance illustrated significant temporal changes in assemblages over decades. The modeled relationship between relative abundance and annual rainfall residuals for 4 years preceding annual sampling is supported by known ecological responses and reptile demographics within this Mediterranean climate. Maintenance of urban biodiversity should consider impacts of a significantly drying climate exacerbating the extinction debt already inherent in isolated bushland populations experiencing limited immigration.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9081
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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