Lizard community structure across a grassland - creosote bush ecotone in the Chihuahuan Desert
Menke, Sean B
- Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
I investigated the distribution and abundance of lizard species (Aspidoscelis inornatus, Aspidoscelis tesselatus, Aspidoscelis tigris, Aspidoscelis uniparens, Cophosaurus texanus, Crotaphytus collaris, Eumeces obsoletus, Gambelia wislizenii, Holbrookia maculata, Phrynosoma cornutum, Sceloporus magister, and Uta stansburiana) across a desert grassland - creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) ecotone in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. The ecotonal area in the Jomada del Muerto basin has increased dramatically in the past 150 years because of the rapid spread of creosote bush. I asked four related questions: how large and where is the ecotone based on vegetative structure, and do lizard abundance and diversity change across the ecotone? Vegetation data were analyzed using discriminate function analysis to determine the extent of the ecotone. Changes in lizard abundance across the ecotone were analyzed by analysis of variance. During two summers, 677 individual lizards of 9 genera and 12 species were captured. Lizard abundance increased with increasing distance from the ecotone and was similar in grassland and creosote bush habitat. Grasslands had higher species richness than both the creosote bush and ecotone habitats. Grassland sites had greater habitat heterogeneity than did creosote bush sites. No ecotone specialist species were detected, and all common lizard species could be found in each habitat. Three potential explanations for decreased abundance in the ecotone are presented: (1) increased risk of predation, (2) decreased prey abundance, and (3) lack of species-specific microhabitat requisites.