Road edge effect on the abundance of the lizard Gallotia galloti (Sauria: Lacertidae) in two Canary Islands forests
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Transportation infrastructure is a main cause of environmental change in forest landscapes worldwide. In the Canary Islands, a dense road system fragment the native Canarian pine and laurel forests causing potential changes in population densities of endemic lacertid lizards (genus Gallotia). Our aim was to assess road edge effects on relative abundance patterns of the endemic Gallotia galloti in both forests. We also explored the species–habitat relationships in this road-fragmentation context. We found that lizard relative density in relation to road edges differed between forests. Lizards were more abundant along edges and leeward interior, but virtually absent from the interior of the windward laurel forest. In the pine forest, lizards were present at three distances from edge, with a net decrease in abundance from edge to interior. These patterns may be explained partly by differences in vegetation structure regarding road proximity in each forest that potentially affect the helio- and thigmothermic character of G. galloti, and thus its habitat use. A general suggestion of this study is that road margins create corridors that may be used by native lizards for dispersal through inhospitable forest matrix. The high road density in Tenerife may have negative implications for the conservation of the genetic variability of G. galloti. At the island scale, increased communication between lizard populations through road corridors might increase homogenization of the gene pool. Ecological processes in which this lizard plays important roles may also experience changes along road edges.