Effects of habitat disturbance and elevation on the diversity and endemicity of Herpetofauna in Northeastern Leyte, Philippines

Syrus Cesar P. Decena, Michael S. Arguelles and Dionesio R. Macasait Jr.


The effect of anthropogenic habitat disturbance and elevational gradient on herpetofaunal diversity and endemicity was investigated in the present study. The habitat disturbance types considered were primary forest, selectively logged primary forest, agroecosystem (coconut plantation), and pasture, with varying elevational distributions (21–1101m asl). The herpetofaunal diversity and endemicity were compared between habitat disturbance types with habitat types (stream and terrestrial), and their relationships with elevation were further explored. A total of 489 herpetofauna belonging to 44 species (22 amphibians and 22 reptiles) were documented. The habitat disturbance significantly lowers the reptile species richness and diversity, and overall herpetofaunal endemicity is low in highly disturbed habitats (pasture). It was found that stream habitats harbor the greatest herpetofaunal diversity and endemicity. Herpetofaunal diversity and endemicity responded differently relative to the elevation, where the former decreased and the latter increased with increasing elevation. Moreover, the highly disturbed habitat (pasture) was strongly associated with widespread and disturbance-tolerant species, while the more pristine habitat (primary forest) was strongly associated with intolerant species. Lastly, this study highlights the need to conserve and protect remaining critical primary habitats especially stream habitats to ensure high herpetofaunal diversity and endemicity in the study area.

Keywords: Amphibians, indicator species, lowland dipterocarp forest

Annals of Tropical Research 45(2):1-26(2023)
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