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A predictive framework and review of the ecological impacts of exotic plant invasions on reptiles and amphibians

Authors

  • Leigh J. Martin,

    Corresponding author
    1. Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia
      (Tel: +61 2 9514 8346; Fax: +61 2 9514 4079; E-mail: Leigh.Martin@uts.edu.au)
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  • Brad R. Murray

    1. Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia
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(Tel: +61 2 9514 8346; Fax: +61 2 9514 4079; E-mail: Leigh.Martin@uts.edu.au)

Abstract

The invasive spread of exotic plants in native vegetation can pose serious threats to native faunal assemblages. This is of particular concern for reptiles and amphibians because they form a significant component of the world's vertebrate fauna, play a pivotal role in ecosystem functioning and are often neglected in biodiversity research. A framework to predict how exotic plant invasion will affect reptile and amphibian assemblages is imperative for conservation, management and the identification of research priorities. Here, we present a new predictive framework that integrates three mechanistic models. These models are based on exotic plant invasion altering: (1) habitat structure; (2) herbivory and predator-prey interactions; (3) the reproductive success of reptile and amphibian species and assemblages. We present a series of testable predictions from these models that arise from the interplay over time among three exotic plant traits (growth form, area of coverage, taxonomic distinctiveness) and six traits of reptiles and amphibians (body size, lifespan, home range size, habitat specialisation, diet, reproductive strategy). A literature review provided robust empirical evidence of exotic plant impacts on reptiles and amphibians from each of the three model mechanisms. Evidence relating to the role of body size and diet was less clear-cut, indicating the need for further research. The literature provided limited empirical support for many of the other model predictions. This was not, however, because findings contradicted our model predictions but because research in this area is sparse. In particular, the small number of studies specifically examining the effects of exotic plants on amphibians highlights the pressing need for quantitative research in this area. There is enormous scope for detailed empirical investigation of interactions between exotic plants and reptile and amphibian species and assemblages. The framework presented here and further testing of predictions will provide a basis for informing and prioritising environmental management and exotic plant control efforts.

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