Assessing Impacts of Drought on Herpetofauna Through Repeated Surveys and Morphometric Comparisons
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Decreases in overall abundance, diversity and body condition of amphibians and reptiles have been linked to global climate change. One manifestation of climate change is more extreme weather patterns. Extended droughts and intense drought conditions are cyclical events for Texas and the Southwest. A recent exceptional drought in central Texas not only directly diminished aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats but also exacerbated other biotic stressors. I repeated relative abundance and diversity surveys conducted in 2004 at a 9-ha ranch in Guadalupe County, Texas, in spring 2009 coincidently with an intense drought. My relative abundance and diversity analyses sought to determine if the drought reduced abundance and diversity of herpetofauna. Additionally, data from the Bastrop County Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis) database combined with Houston toad captures from Griffith League Ranch (GLR) in Bastrop County in 2009 were analyzed for changes in body condition. The results provide new information for the assessment of drought impacts in this group of vertebrates and analytical issues associated with categorizing drought conditions and discriminating among years for drought effects.