Forest-land use complementarity modifies community structure of a tropical herpetofauna

David J. Kurz, A. Justin Nowakowski, Morgan W. Tingley, Maureen A. Donnelly, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Different human land uses are not uniform in their ecological effects on remnant faunas. Explicitly recognizing the relative habitat value of prevalent land uses in comparison to forest will help improve conservation theory and practice in human-modified landscapes. To better understand how common land uses influence habitat quality and buffer forest fragments in tropical landscapes, we characterized reptile and amphibian assemblages across forest-pasture and forest-peach palm (palmito) ecotones in northeastern Costa Rica. We found that forest remnants contained significantly greater overall richness and abundance of reptiles and amphibians than either palmito or pasture; palmito supported greater species richness and abundance of herpetofauna than pastures. Assemblages of reptiles and amphibians in palmito also exhibited greater similarity to those found in forests than did assemblages in pasture, particularly for reptiles. Species exhibited distinctive responses to forest-land use ecotones, with some species reaching their highest abundances in non-forest habitat. Our results show that two important land uses in Costa Rica differ in their capacity to buffer forest patches and promote landscape connectivity for reptile and amphibian populations. Understanding these differences is crucial for identifying matrix environments that can complement the natural forest habitats of sensitive reptile and amphibian species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-255
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Feb 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


  • Amphibian decline
  • Forest fragmentation
  • Matrix effects
  • Pasture
  • Peach palm
  • Reptile conservation


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