Effects of habitat fragmentation on population structure of dune-dwelling lizards
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2017 Walkup et al. Landscape fragmentation alters biotic and abiotic characteristics of landscapes, variously affecting the size and demographic structure of species' populations. Fragmentation is predicted to negatively impact habitat specialists because of perturbations to their habitat, whereas generalists should be less sensitive to fragmentation. Differences in life history among the lizards in this community should partly explain some of the variation in generalist species' responses to fragmentation. During five seasons (2009-2013), we captured eight species of lizards on 27 independent trapping grids located in unfragmented (N = 18) and fragmented (N = 9) grids in the Mescalero-Monahans Sandhills ecosystem in southeastern New Mexico. Using a two-way ANOVA, we tested for effects of fragmentation and year on capture rates for each species. To test for effects of fragmentation on demographic structure, we used contingency tables with expected frequencies computed from the demographic structure on unfragmented grids. Capture rates of the endemic habitat specialist Sceloporus arenicolus (dunes sagebrush lizard) decreased to zero in fragmented sites. The demographic structure of S. arenicolus and Holbrookia maculata (common lesser earless lizard) was severely disrupted at fragmented sites, with proportions of juveniles, adult males, or adult females being over- or underrepresented during sample months. Variable responses of five generalist species could be attributed to life history patterns, habitat affinity, and breeding phenology. This is the first empirical study we are aware of that describes and quantifies the demographic effects of fragmentation on populations of multiple lizard species in a replicated study. Our findings lend important insights into how habitat specialization and differences in life history influence the susceptibility of species to the impacts of fragmentation.