Thinking like a River: Linking Lizard Communities to Habitat Heterogeneity in Arid Riparian Forests

Bateman, Heather L.

College of Integrative Science and Arts

Arizona State University

Mesa, AZ USA.

The habitat heterogeneity hypothesis is a foundation of community ecology. This concept suggests that structurally complex habitats provide more ecological niches and a wide variety of species can exploit these resources, thus supporting a diverse species assemblage. In most terrestrial habitats, the plant community determines physical structure. The literature is replete with examples of heterogeneous habitats providing varied resources for birds, arthropods, and amphibians. There has been less attention on the importance of habitat complexity for lizards. In this talk, I will explore the relationship between habitat heterogeneity and herpetofauna diversity using three examples from Southwestern riparian systems. Riparian vegetation, habitat structure, microclimate, and reptile and amphibian communities have been measured from the Middle Rio Grande in New Mexico, the Virgin River in Nevada, and the San Pedro in Arizona. Habitats can influence wildlife via several processes and I will provide examples of how changes in vegetation and changes in the thermal quality of habitat can explain lizard assemblages.