Habitat relationships of reptiles in pine beetle disturbed forests of Alabama, U.S.A., with guidelines for a modified drift-fence sampling method
Understanding vertebrate habitat relationships is important to promote management strategies for the longterm conservation of many species. Using a modified drift fence method, we sampled reptiles and compared habitat variables within the William B. Bankhead National Forest (BNF) in Alabama, U.S.A from April 2005 to June 2006. We captured 226 individual reptiles representing 19 species during 564 total trap nights. We used canonical correspondence analysis to examine habitat associations for the reptiles sampled and we detected a distinct habitat gradient ranging from sites with greater litter depth and percent canopy cover to more open sites with greater woody, herbaceous, and coarse woody debris (CWD) coverage, and CWD volume. Little brown skinks Scincella lateralis and eastern worm snakes Carphophis a. amoenus were associated with sites with greater litter depth and canopy cover, whereas eastern fence lizards Sceloporus undulatus, copperheads Agkistrodon contortrix, and gray ratsnakes Pantherophis spiloides were associated with sites possessing greater CWD coverage and volume. We found that disturbances due to the southern pine beetle Dendroctonus frontalis were likely important for influencing reptile distributions through the creation of canopy gaps and fallen coarse woody debris. Compared to other studies, our modified drift-fence trap technique was successful for sampling larger snake species (66 snakes in 564 trap nights). We have also provided detailed schematics for constructing drift fence array and box traps used in this study.