Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Alison Gainsbury, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Neal Halstead, Ph.D.


Prescribed burning, Anolis carolinensis, Plestiodon reynoldsi, Microhabitat variables, Scrubby flatwoods, Anaxyrus quercicus


Fires, either natural or prescribed, are essential for conserving pyrogenic ecosystems; however, climate change is predicted to increase fire severity that could negatively impact species diversity. Reptile and amphibian species may be particularly at risk given they are ectothermic species. The objective of this study was to better understand the impacts of fire severity on the herpetofaunal communities of the Florida scrub habitats, which is an imperiled ecosystem that sustains over two-thirds of listed reptiles and amphibians in Florida. We conducted a field-based study to test taxonomic and functional herpetofaunal diversity differences across four varying fire severities: unburned, low, medium and high. We also examined the association between herpetofaunal diversity and microhabitat variables. We recorded 549 individuals representing 23 different reptile and amphibian species. The herpetofaunal community was not significantly different between the fire severity plots; however, microhabitat variables and variability were significantly associated with species diversity. Interesting, the endangered sand skink, Plestiodon reynoldsi, was not recorded at the high severity plots, which could have implications on fire management practices of this federally listed threatened species. In this study, we demonstrate fire severity does not have direct effects but indirect effects on herpetofaunal species diversity in the Florida scrub habitat, increased fire severity impacts on leaf litter has the potential to have detrimental effects on herpetofaunal diversity. This study highlights the importance of fine-scale microhabitat variables as an important indicator for biodiversity conservation.

Included in

Biology Commons