Thermal biology mediates responses of amphibians and reptiles to habitat modification

Ecol Lett. 2018 Mar;21(3):345-355. doi: 10.1111/ele.12901. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Human activities often replace native forests with warmer, modified habitats that represent novel thermal environments for biodiversity. Reducing biodiversity loss hinges upon identifying which species are most sensitive to the environmental conditions that result from habitat modification. Drawing on case studies and a meta-analysis, we examined whether observed and modelled thermal traits, including heat tolerances, variation in body temperatures, and evaporative water loss, explained variation in sensitivity of ectotherms to habitat modification. Low heat tolerances of lizards and amphibians and high evaporative water loss of amphibians were associated with increased sensitivity to habitat modification, often explaining more variation than non-thermal traits. Heat tolerances alone explained 24-66% (mean = 38%) of the variation in species responses, and these trends were largely consistent across geographic locations and spatial scales. As habitat modification alters local microclimates, the thermal biology of species will likely play a key role in the reassembly of terrestrial communities.

Keywords: Agriculture; CTmax; biodiversity; ectotherm; fragmentation; global change; habitat loss; microclimate; phylogenetic signal; species traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians*
  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Forests
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Microclimate
  • Reptiles*

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.5632873