Influence of Forest Fragmentation on Frog and Lizard Communities in the Caribbean Lowlands of Costa Rica

EPA Grant Number: U916210
Title: Influence of Forest Fragmentation on Frog and Lizard Communities in the Caribbean Lowlands of Costa Rica
Investigators: Bell, Kristen E.
Institution: Florida International University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $120,632
RFA: Minority Academic Institutions (MAI) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2003) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Natural and Life Sciences , Biology/Life Sciences


The overall objective of this research project is to examine patterns in herpetofaunal abundance and distribution in the fragmented landscape surrounding La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, an area with a diverse and relatively well-known herpetofauna. The specific objectives of this research project are to: (1) assess the community structure of frogs and lizards across fragments of different areas and isolations compared to control areas in continuous forest; (2) compare population densities and estimate recruitment of species among fragments and controls; and (3) test predictions of species' vulnerability to fragmentation based on ecological traits.


Anthropogenic habitat destruction, modification, and fragmentation pose the greatest threat to amphibians and reptiles worldwide. Although habitat fragmentation has been the focus of an extensive body of research, relatively little is known of its effects on amphibians and reptiles, especially in tropical ecosystems. Effects of fragmentation may include changes in species richness, species composition, and population size, among others. Populations in smaller fragments may be more susceptible to decline and extirpation, but responses are influenced by the isolation of fragments, edge effects, and the composition of the surrounding matrix, as well as the life histories and ecological traits of the species involved. To adequately address the effects of fragmentation, measures of species richness and abundance must be combined with an analysis of species composition and demography, while considering the spatial and temporal scales of the system under study. By examining responses of populations and communities to fragmentation, the conservation value of such fragments can be evaluated.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, Caribbean lowlands, Costa Rica, forest fragmentation, community structure, amphibians, reptiles, lizards, habitat destruction, tropical ecosystem, species vulnerability.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final