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Disturbance effects from fire and mining produce different lizard communities in eastern Australian forests


Disturbance effects from fire and mining produce different lizard communities in eastern Australian forests



Australian Journal of Ecology 26(2): 204



DOI: 10.1046/j.1442-9993.2001.01105.x

The lizard fauna of sand-mined dunes of the central coast of New South Wales, Australia has been shown to be dominated by Ctenotus robustus and Ctenotus taeniolatus (Scincidae), with relative abundance changing with time since mining. However, there is little published information on how this lizard fauna compares to that of the undisturbed open forest that previously grew on these sites. Here, existing data are added to in order to produce a longer chronosequence of times since sand-mining (4, 8, 14 and 20 years) than has been examined previously. The new data are compared to those from unmined forests. Ctenotus robustus and C. taeniolatus dominated lizard captures on mined areas, with peak abundances at 8 and 14 years, respectively. Lampropholis guichenoti (Scincidae) was at low abundance until 20 years post-mining and L. delicata was present only at 20 years post-mining. Unmined forest burned 4, 8 or 14 years ago had a significantly different lizard community from that of sand-mined areas. Ctenotus robustus and C. taeniolatus were absent from unmined forest at all post-fire periods. Lampropholis guichenoti and Lampropholis delicata were numerically dominant in forest, with increasing abundance of L. guichenoti with time since fire. Thus the composition of the lizard community on these coastal dunes is not solely determined by time since disturbance per se. Comparisons of sites on the basis of accumulated leaf litter showed a significant relationship between Lampropholis abundance and litter density. On sand-mined sites and forested sites with similar leaf litter densities, the abundances of L. guichenoti were similar. As Ctenotus were absent from unmined forest, we could not compare their distribution in unmined and mined areas. However, negative correlations of Ctenotus abundance with canopy cover and understorey vegetation density offer a possible explanation for the absence of these species from forest.

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