Reptile Community, Fire & Habitat Structure

My first Master project at the University of Barcelona, under the supervision of Xavier Santos (CIBIO, University of Porto), aimed to investigate the responses of reptile species to wildfires and habitat structure in the Albera Range (North Catalonia). In Mediterranean landscapes, wildfires are disturbances that have participated to shape plant and animal communities. Consequently, organisms inhabiting fire-prone regions evolved to be adapted to a certain fire regime, that is, to a certain frequency of fire events. This is the case for example of the cork-oak Quercus suber, which has developed a thick bark, conferring a protection against fire. T-hermanniNevertheless, during the last centuries, the Mediterranean region have been highly modified by urbanization and agriculture, leading to a fragmentation of natural habitats. Besides, fires have become more and more frequent and these changes in fire regimes caused the degradation of the fire-adapted habitats. The Albera region holds the last natural population of Hermann’s tortoise Testudo hermanni of the Iberian Peninsula. This endangered population is the smallest and the most threatened of the species distribution range and it will go extinct if further conservative measures are not considered. The biggest threats to this species are wildfires, illegal collecting and habitat fragmentation.  The overreaching aim of our project is to study the responses of the reptile community to fire and habitat structure in the Albera Range (North Catalonia). In a first step, we examined the contrasts between short- and long-term responses of reptile species, and in a second step, we investigated the historic and environmental factors explaining the distribution of the Hermann’s tortoise in this region.

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