Effect of fire history and vegetation structure on herpetofauna in a South African grassland

Image credit: Gavin Masterson


Fire is a frequent feature of African grasslands and is commonly used in the management of conservation areas.We studied the herpetofaunal richness and composition of 10 sites to determine the effects of a 30-year firemanagement regime on the herpetofaunal assemblage in a reserve in South Africa.We trapped amphibians and reptiles duringMarch and April 2004 at 10 sites with different fire histories. Sites of different post-fire ages were compared for differences in their species richness. We also measured the vegetation cover and vegetation height i.e. the vegetation structure at each of the sites surveyed. We found no significant effects of fire history on the species richness or composition of each site. Species composition at each site was better explained by post-fire age than by vegetation structure. There was a tight correlation between the vegetation cover of a site and its species richness, as well as a significant effect of vegetation structure on the similarity of the species found at each site. Vegetation structure appears to be the key factor affecting the structure of herpetofaunal assemblages in grasslands of South Africa, with fire and prescribed burning impacting on the assemblages via its effect on the vegetation.

Applied Herpetology 5(2) pp 129-143
Gavin Masterson, PhD
Gavin Masterson, PhD

My interests include snakes, lizards, guitar, swimming and exploring either the outdoors or data.