Name: Ferreira DS

Biodeserts supervisors: Santos X

Title: The response of reptiles to fire at the Mediterranean basin 

Institution: University of Porto

Status: Completed




Impacts on biodiversity are nowadays increasing, and current rates of extinction are estimated to be 100–1000 times greater than normal. Protected areas are aimed to reduce the human impacts on biodiversity. The rate of biodiversity loss however does not appear to be slowing in these sites: protected areas are still vulnerable to factors coming from outside their borders (e.g. pollution) and they are not free from environmental drivers such as temperature rainfall shifts or fires. Long-term research and monitoring can provide essential ecological information to detect and evaluate biodiversity changes motivated by severe disturbances such as global warming and wildfires. The main goal of my project was to compare species composition and relative abundance of a reptile assemblage between fieldwork sampling carried out in 1999-2001 and repeated in 2012-2013 at the Rio Homem valley, a locality at the Peneda-Gerês National Park. We checked for temporal variation along this period in the number of visitants, temperature and rainfall, as we expected that these features might cause changes in the reptile community. Landsat Imagery for both periods were processed in order to detect changes on habitat cover types after a 2009 fire that occurred on the right side of our study area. Our climatic dataset showed that annual rainfall decreased and mean annual temperature increased in a 13-year period. Land cover analysis also showed significant differences, with an increasing of open areas caused by the fire. For reptile assemblage, Atlantic species such as Lacerta schreiberi declined, whereas Mediterranean species such as Psammodromus algirus colonized the study area. Expectations related to climatic and landuse changes support that Atlantic species‟ are being disfavored whereas Mediterranean ones are being favored, likely colonizing new habitats. Our results emphasize the importance to continue long-term monitoring to understand the magnitude of these impacts on reptile communities. Although warming and wildfires are global processes, early-stage management practices could help to mitigate this impact at local scale.