The Relative Contributions of Habitat Area, Configuration, and Vegetative Diversity on Snake and Lizard Presence in Agricultural Landscapes

Submitted by barogers on Mon, 03/25/2024 - 10:51

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Conservation Science and Practice (2024)



agroecology Diadophis punctatus fragmentation Habitat Amount Hypothesis Pantherophis ramspotti Plestiodon septentrionalis reptile presence Thamnophis sirtalis



<p>Nearly one in five reptile species is at risk of extinction. Changes in habitat area, its configuration, and vegetation diversity could affect habitat use, but their relative importance is understudied. We assessed how these factors affected reptile presence in agricultural landscapes figure in Iowa, United States, using 695 cover board visited 16,441 times in 2015-2020. Species-wise encounter rates ranged 0.0001-0.012. Eight of 11 species and 54.2% of indivduals were species of greatest conservation need. Habitat area, configuration, and vegetation diversity influenced reptile presence similarly. Mean path occupancy was 0.18 for common garter snake (CG, Thamnophis sirtalis) and 0.45 for all snakes (AS). Naive presence was explained by effort (odds ratio [OR]as = 1.83, ORcg = 1.79), vegetation diversity (ORAS = 1.28, ORCG = 1.28), woody cover (ORAS = 1.24, ORCG =1.41), and patch size (ORAS = 1.30). Large patch prairies were more likely to contain snakes than other conservation practices (r encounter = 0.291), and more likely to contain CG (0.098) than prairie contour strips (0.031), waterways (0.018), grass contour strips (0.016), or terraces (0.015). While we documented low overall reptile presence, their higher presence in large prairie patches underscores the importance of core nature reserves for reptile conservation.</p>

A common garter snake in grass