|Landscape context matters: local habitat and landscape effects on the abundance and patch occupancy of collared lizards in managed grasslands
|Year of Publication
|Blevins, E, With, KA
|Crotaphytus collaris, fire, Flint Hills, Grazing, Habitat suitability, Land management, tallgrass prairie
The distribution and abundance of a species may be simultaneously influenced by both local-scale habitat features and the broader patch and landscape contexts in which these populations occur. Different factors may influence patch occupancy (presence–absence) versus local abundance (number of individuals within patches), and at different scales, and thus ideally both occupancy and abundance should be investigated, especially in studies that seek to understand the consequences of land management on species persistence. Our study evaluated the relative influences of variables associated with the local habitat patch, hillside (patch context), and landscape context on patch occupancy and abundance of the collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) within tallgrass prairie managed under different fire and grazing regimes in the northern Flint Hills of Kansas, USA. Using a multi-model information-theoretic approach that accounted for detection bias, we found that collared lizard abundance and occupancy was influenced by factors measured at both the local habitat and landscape scales. At a local scale, collared lizard abundance was greatest on large rock ledges that had lots of crevices, high vegetation complexity, and were located higher up on the hillslope. At the landscape scale, collared lizard abundance and occupancy were both higher in watersheds that were burned frequently (1–2 year intervals). Interestingly, grazing only had a significant effect on occupancy and abundance within less frequently burned (4-year burn interval) watersheds. Our results suggest that, in addition to the obvious habitat needs of this species (availability of suitable rock habitat), land-management practices have the potential to influence collared lizard presence and abundance in the grasslands of the Flint Hills. Thus, mapping the availability of suitable habitat is unlikely to be sufficient for evaluating species distributions and persistence in such cases without consideration of landscape management and disturbance history.