Spatially-Explicit Patterns of Population and Community Dynamics Among Amphibians and Reptiles in Neotropical Lowland Forest

EPA Grant Number: U915923
Title: Spatially-Explicit Patterns of Population and Community Dynamics Among Amphibians and Reptiles in Neotropical Lowland Forest
Investigators: Watling, James I.
Institution: Florida International University
EPA Project Officer: Graham, Karen
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2004
Project Amount: $78,624
RFA: Minority Academic Institutions (MAI) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Biology/Life Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Natural and Life Sciences


The purpose of this research project is to quantify and compare species richness and population density of amphibians and reptiles in continuous forest and on forest islands embedded in seasonally flooded grassland. Due in large part to habitat loss and fragmentation, approximately one-third to one-half of the total number of species on earth are at risk of extinction. This biodiversity crisis is especially critical in lowland tropical forests because they harbor a large percentage of the world’s species. Although ongoing research in tropical forests has described negative consequences of fragmentation, most of these studies have been conducted at sites that are subject to many additional anthropogenic disturbances. Therefore, the effects of fragmentation itself on the distribution of species may be confounded by interactions with other types of human disturbances.


Human activity at the study site has been minimal and, therefore, provides an opportunity to study the effects of fragmentation on the distribution and density of organisms in the absence of additional, potentially interactive variables related to anthropogenic disturbance. I used live trapping methods to sample 3,193 individual amphibians and reptiles in the three habitat types (continuous forest, forest islands, and grassland) from September 2002–March 2004. I will use these data to provide an overview of species richness and population density in a fragmented landscape, investigate edge effects on community composition, quantify body size differences in fragmented and intact habitats, make a link between community composition and habitat profiles of my trapping sites, and discuss ecological correlates of sensitivity to extinction in my study system.

Ultimately, I hope that my study will serve as an important reference point to other studies of forest fragmentation and aid in our understanding of the exact mechanisms by which species are affected by the fragmentation process.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, neotropical lowland forest, habitat loss, biodiversity crisis, species richness, fragmentation, fragmented landscape, amphibians, reptiles, continuous forest, forest islands, grassland.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final