Brazilian herpetofauna surveys record species diversity

herpetofauna Brazil

More than one hundred amphibian and reptile species have been listed

Almost three years’ worth of surveys into herpetofauna diversity in Bahia, Brazil have resulted in listings of more than 100 amphibian and reptile species, filling in valuable distribution gaps and underpinning conservation efforts there.

Atlantic forest land use

Salvador, capital of Bahia state in Brazil is the third largest city in the country. When it was founded in the 16th century it was a walled city, but by the 18th century it was already growing towards the north coast of the state. It was Brazil’s first capital and its growth came mostly from the extraction of natural resources. By the first half of the 20th century it had become an important tourism spot. In the final decades of the last century, the north coast of Bahia’s sand dune ecosystem was extensively used for agriculture and tourism industries, and those human activities imposed severe changes on local habitats.

Local growth changing the face of the landscape

Atlantic forest Brazil

The north coast of Bahia is one of the most important biodiversity refuges in the country

The north coast of Bahia is considered one of the two last biodiversity refuges in the state and probably one of the four most important in the country. To date, over 150 herpetofauna species have been listed for this ecoregion, several of which are listed under IUCN or IBAMA red list as endangered or endemic for the country.

Local herpetofauna diversity is not well known and recent studies show that species from other important eco-regions, such as the Brazilian desert and savannahs, had their geographical distribution expanded towards this region. However most of this biodiversity is suffering from severe habitat loss from the development of resort hotel complexes.

Expected outcomes of the project

The ‘Habitat Change and the Status of Herpetofauna in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil’ project was established to answer some critical questions, including: What is the overall herpetofauna biodiversity found in the region? Is there any indication of herpetofauna biodiversity loss due to human development within the landscape? How much of the protected area’s network effectively protects the overall herpetofauna diversity?

Assessing herpetofauna diversity

It is one of the last major refuges for coastal herpetofauna within the Atlantic forest in Brazil

Surveys have been carried out every two months since February 2009. Surveyors visit nine sample localities, covering all the coastal municipalities. Within each locality four habitats are surveyed. These habitats are surveyed during a ten day period, using visual search techniques to detect amphibian and reptiles species along a 500 metre transect. The habitats are surveyed for two hours each day. All amphibians and reptiles observed or captured are recorded and individually marked using VIE (fluorescent elastomer implants) to aid further monitoring.

Preliminary results

researching herpetofauna Brazil

All amphibians and reptiles observed or captured were recorded and individually marked

After two years of surveys we recorded 128 amphibians and reptile species; this richness represents nearly 10% of the overall Brazilian herpetofauna diversity. The local herpetofauna is composed of 52 frogs, 34 lizards and 36 snakes, four land turtles and two caimans. Eighteen species are listed as endangered and 13 reptiles and amphibians have never been described for the region. These results, so far, are filling in some valuable distribution gaps for local species.

In working with conservation organisations, the project has proposed the idea of and is helping to create new protected areas. Once officially recognised, they will be able to protect over 90% of overall herpetofauna within the region, which is one of the last major refuges for coastal herpetofauna within the Atlantic forest in Brazil.

Acknowledgement: Special acknowledgements to all individuals and organisations which have made this project possible. Special thanks to the project supervisor Dr Richard Griffiths at DICE (University of Kent at Canterbury) for the opportunity and the ECOA ( UCSAL) for housing the project. Thanks to organisations recognising the project: Amphibian Ark and the Herpetofauna Foundation, and the financial support from RepTech and the Lacerta Ambiental.

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  1. Record species discovered in Brazilian herpetofauna survey | The Sticky Tongue Project - November 2011

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