Recovery of frog and lizard communities following primary habitat alteration in Mizoram, Northeast India
1 Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun 248 001, India
2 Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA
BMC Ecology 2004, 4:10 doi:10.1186/1472-6785-4-10Published: 6 August 2004
Community recovery following primary habitat alteration can provide tests for various hypotheses in ecology and conservation biology. Prominent among these are questions related to the manner and rate of community assembly after habitat perturbation. Here we use space-for-time substitution to analyse frog and lizard community assembly along two gradients of habitat recovery following slash and burn agriculture (jhum) in Mizoram, Northeast India. One recovery gradient undergoes natural succession to mature tropical rainforest, while the other involves plantation of jhum fallows with teak Tectona grandis monoculture.
Frog and lizard communities accumulated species steadily during natural succession, attaining characteristics similar to those from mature forest after 30 years of regeneration. Lizards showed higher turnover and lower augmentation of species relative to frogs. Niche based classification identified a number of guilds, some of which contained both frogs and lizards. Successional change in species richness was due to increase in the number of guilds as well as the number of species per guild. Phylogenetic structure increased with succession for some guilds. Communities along the teak plantation gradient on the other hand, did not show any sign of change with chronosere age. Factor analysis revealed sets of habitat variables that independently determined changes in community and guild composition during habitat recovery.
The timescale of frog and lizard community recovery was comparable with that reported by previous studies on different faunal groups in other tropical regions. Both communities converged on primary habitat attributes during natural vegetation succession, the recovery being driven by deterministic, nonlinear changes in habitat characteristics. On the other hand, very little faunal recovery was seen even in relatively old teak plantation. In general, tree monocultures are unlikely to support recovery of natural forest communities and the combined effect of shortened jhum cultivation cycles and plantation forestry could result in landscapes without mature forest. Lack of source pools of genetic diversity will then lead to altered vegetation succession and faunal community reassembly. It is therefore important that the value of habitat mosaics containing even patches of primary forest and successional secondary habitats be taken into account.