Relationships Between Herpetofaunal Community Structure and Varying Levels of Overstory Tree Retention in Northern Alabama

EPA Grant Number: U916242
Title: Relationships Between Herpetofaunal Community Structure and Varying Levels of Overstory Tree Retention in Northern Alabama
Investigators: Felix, Zachary I.
Institution: Alabama A & M University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $89,317
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


Forest managers are increasingly considering the effects of their decisions on the biodiversity of an area. However, there often is a lack of data on which to evaluate these decisions. The objective of this research project is to examine the relationship between silvicultural techniques, particularly shelterwood cuts with varying levels of basal area retention, and the community structure of amphibians and reptiles in the Cumberland Plateau of northern Alabama.


We have implemented five levels of basal area retention at 15 plots (4 ha/site): 0 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent, and control (100 percent) with three replicates each. Drift fences with pitfall traps and funnel traps, coverboards, and artificial pools will be used to quantify herpetofauna at each site. Vegetation sampling will describe any differences in microhabitat availability as they relate to treatments. Dataloggers will be used to describe temporal and spatial variability of temperature and moisture measurements on study sites. I predict that plots with high basal area will provide better conditions for amphibians, sites with low basal area will be more favorable for reptiles, and sites with intermediate basal area will contain the most structurally and climatically complex habitats, and the highest species richness of herpetofauna. Data on microhabitat and climate will be combined with animal capture data to produce models that may be useful for predicting the effects of canopy removal on herpetofauna and their habitat.

My research project will provide both a theoretical framework furthering our understanding of factors affecting the distribution and abundance of these organisms, and applicable data that may be used to assist forest managers in sustaining these communities.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, amphibians, reptiles, Cumberland Plateau, herpetofaunal community structure, northern Alabama, biodiversity, forest managers, microhabitat availability, temporal and spatial availability.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final