The transition from isolated patches to a metapopulation in the eastern collared lizard in response to prescribed fires

Authors

  • Alan R Templeton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, Washington University, 1 Brookings Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63130-4899 USA
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  • Hilary Brazeal,

    1. Department of Biology, Washington University, 1 Brookings Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63130-4899 USA
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    • Present address: 18 South Kingshighway Boulevard, Apartment 9N, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

  • Jennifer L Neuwald

    1. Department of Biology, Washington University, 1 Brookings Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63130-4899 USA
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    • Present address: Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011 USA.


Abstract

Habitat fragmentation often arises from human-induced alterations to the matrix that reduce or eliminate dispersal between habitat patches. Elimination of dispersal increases local extinction and decreases recolonization. These phenomena were observed in the eastern collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris collaris), which lives in the mid-continental highland region of the Ozarks (Missouri, USA) on glades: habitats of exposed bedrock that form desert-like habitats imbedded in a woodland matrix. With the onset of woodland fire suppression, glade habitats degenerated and the woodland matrix was altered to create a strong barrier to dispersal. By 1980, lizard populations in the Ozarks were rapidly going extinct. In response to this decline, some glades were restored by clearing and burning. Starting in 1984, collared lizard populations were translocated onto these restored habitats. The translocated populations persisted but did not colonize nearby glades or disperse among one another. In 1994 prescribed woodland fires were initiated, which unleashed much dispersal and colonizing behavior. Dispersal was highly nonrandom by both intrinsic variables (age, gender) and extrinsic variables (overall demography, glade population sizes, glade areas, landscape features), resulting in different classes of lizards being dominant in creating demographic cohesiveness among glades, colonizing new glades on a mountain, and colonizing new mountain systems. A dramatic transition was documented from isolated fragments, to a nonequilibrium colonizing metapopulation, and finally to a stable metapopulation. This transition is characterized by the convergence of rates of extinction and recolonization and a major alteration of dispersal probabilities and pattern in going from the nonequilibrium to stable metapopulation states.

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