Ecological preferences of Hyla molleri in the colonisation of arboreal refuges in a human-shaped wetland

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Hyla molleri is well adapted to arboreal microhabitats, which are used among breeding seasons. This species is common in wetlands across the Iberian Peninsula and is therefore vulnerable to the loss and degradation of these ecosystems. Due to its secretive habits, the knowledge about the ecology of H. molleri, outside the breeding season, is still scarce. Using artificial refuges as a proxy to natural refuges, we studied how H. molleri uses arboreal microhabitats near reproductive areas and which environmental drivers influence refuge colonisation. We installed 70 PVC pipe refuges in isolated trees and tree patches. Pairs of pipes were installed at two different heights and monitored fortnightly, for four consecutive days, for one year. Each sampling day, we registered the values of variables related with seasonality, microhabitat, dominant plant species, weather and site fidelity. We recorded 2234 individual colonization events by H. molleri, including 516 multiple colonization events, with a maximum of nine individuals in a single refuge. Refuges that were colonized before were more likely to be colonized again. Additionally, colonization was lower in spring and summer and higher in tree clusters than in isolated trees. We found no significant differences on the height or temperature of colonized versus non-colonized refuges. Our results highlight the importance of adequate arboreal microhabitats and the need for the conservation of terrestrial habitats around breeding areas. We also show that artificial refuges can be useful for H. molleri and similar species, namely for habitat improvement or the implementation of citizen-science and monitoring programs.

Ecological preferences of Hyla molleri in the colonisation of arboreal refuges in a human-shaped wetland

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    Study area. (A) Location of the study area in north-western Portugal, Iberian Peninsula; (B) Satellite image of the 4 km transect where the refuges were installed; (C) opening of one of the PVC pipe refuge used in this study; (D) transition between rice field and reed bed, with cattail in the first plan and isolated willows and willow tree patches at the distance; (E) transition between fallow and maize fields, with isolated willows and willow tree patches.

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    Colonization rates throughout the year, given as the average number of individuals per ten refuges, for each fortnight period. Average temperatures of refuge opening and base are presented for colonized and empty refuges. The average ventral temperature of individuals colonizing the refuges is also presented.

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    Average colonization rate (and 95% confidence intervals) expressed as the average number of individuals per single refuge, per season and: (A) relative height of refuge (above head and waist level); (B) degree of tree clustering around the refuge (isolated tree or tree cluster).

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