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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2003  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 69-86

The Response of Agamid Lizards to Rainforest Fragmentation in the Southern Western Ghats, India

1 Wildlife Institute of India, PO Box 18, Dehradun 248 001, India
2 Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, 641 108, India
3 Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO D 80523, USA

Correspondence Address:
N M Ishwar
Wildlife Institute of India, PO Box 18, Dehradun 248 001
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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We examine the response of agamid lizards to the fragmentation of their rainfores habitat in the Western Ghats mountains in southern India. The data come from eighteen transects in nearly 400 sq. km of relatively undisturbed and continuou rainforests in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), and thirty-thre transects in fourteen rainforest fragments (less than 1 ha to 2,500 ha) in the Anaimalai Hills, which were sampled during 1997-2000. A total of 263 agamid lizards belonging to eight species were recorded in the KMTR and 443 agamid lizards belonging to five species were recorded in the Anaimalai Hills. In the KMTR species richness showed a unimodal distribution with altitude, while the encounter rate showed a sharp linear decline due to the decrease in two most common species,Draco dussumieriand Calotes ellioti. Transects in forest frag ments at lower elevations (700-1200 m) had lower species richness and encounte rates than the KMTR. Comparison of these forest fragments amongst themselves and with the KMTR showed a decline in the abundance of D. dussumieri C. nemericolaand C. grandisquamis in the smaller fragments. Their encounte rates in the forest fragments, however, were better correlated with habitat feature that represented the structural characteristics of the undisturbed forest (highe canopy height, greater canopy cover and the presence of more buttressed trees) than with the area of the fragment. The most common species in the forest frag­ments,C. ellioti,was unaffected by habitat fragmentation.C. rouxiihas benefite from the fragmentation of these forests and has intruded into the smaller and more disturbed fragments. This study shows that there are considerable differences among species in their response to habitat fragmentation, with some species benefiting(C. rouxii), some remaining unaffected(C. ellioti) and others adversely affected (D. dussumieri, C. nemericola and C. grandisquamis). Protection and restoration of forest fragments, many of which are privately owned, is necessary for the conservation of endemic agamid lizards and other arboreal animals.

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