Date of this Version
Malzahn J, Caven AJ , Warren S, Ostrom B, and Ferraro D. Habitat associations of herpetofauna in the Central Platte River Valley, Nebraska, with notes on morphometric characteristics. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences and Affiliated Societies 41 (2021), pp. 88-105.
The Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) is a unique and biologically important ecoregion, and several studies have conducted localized herpetofauna species inventories. However, there has been significantly less effort to quantify the habitat associations or activity patterns of these species. Habitat associations and activity patterns vary regionally and provide important information for ecosystem management. We deployed a total of 38 traps of 5 different types (pitfall, funnel, hoop, box, and coverboard) across 11 sites (7 terrestrial, 4 aquatic) for an 8-week period in June and July 2019. Our exploratory analyses used generalized linear models with a quasibinomial distribution to examine associations between herpetofauna abundance (captures per trap night) and habitat characteristics controlling for trap type. Habitat characteristics assessed included distance to nearest woodland, distance to nearest standing water, vegetation species richness, soil texture, and vegetative cover in addition to others. We also evaluated activity patterns weekly across the study period. The two most abundant species demonstrated divergent distributional patterns, Northern Prairie Skinks were only absent from two of the driest terrestrial sites, while the Six-lined Racerunners were locally abundant at just three sites with significant bare ground and sandy soils. We documented a Cope’s Gray Treefrog at a site with little woody cover in which the species had not been previously observed, suggesting it may be increasingly widespread regionally. We also detected relatively widespread juvenile anuran dispersal at multiple terrestrial sites a considerable distance from standing water. Our results provide a preliminary examination of habitat associations and summer activity patterns for herpetofauna in the CPRV that can be used to inform conservation efforts and further studies of this system.