Factors affecting the use of reforested sites by reptiles in cleared rainforest landscapes in tropical and subtropical Australia
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Despite recent efforts to reforest cleared rainforest landscapes, in Australia and elsewhere, the value of reforested sites for rainforest-dependent reptiles is unknown. We surveyed the occurrence of reptiles in a range of reforestation types (monoculture and mixed species timber plantations, diverse 'ecological restoration' plantings and regrowth), as well as reference sites in pasture and rainforest, in tropical and subtropical Australia. We recorded 29 species of reptiles from 104 sites, including 15 rainforest-dependent species. Most rainforest reptiles were strongly associated with complex microhabitats (tree trunks, logs, rocks). The richness and abundance of rainforest-dependent reptiles varied between the different types of reforestation and between regions. In the tropics, rainforest reptiles were recorded in old timber plantations and ecological restoration plantings, but not in young timber plantations or regrowth. Rainforest reptiles were recorded in few reforested sites in the subtropics. The occurrence of rainforest-dependent reptiles in reforested sites appears to be influenced by (i) habitat structure, (ii) proximity to source populations in rainforest; and (iii) biogeography and historical differences in the extent of rainforest. Restoration of cleared land for rainforest-dependent reptiles may require the development, or deliberate creation, of complex structural attributes and microhabitats in reforested sites. Where reforested sites are located away from rainforest, recolonization by rainforest reptiles may require the construction of corridors of suitable habitat between reforested sites and rainforest or the translocation of reptiles to reforested sites.
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