Habitat Association Patterns of an Endangered Lizard Species with a Foundation Plant Species in the San Joaquin Desert of California: Radio Telemetry as an Ecological Tool
Noble, Taylor James
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Positive facilitation of plant and animal species by dominant vegetation is common in harsh environments such as deserts. Here we tested the hypothesis that desert shrubs facilitate the blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila), an endangered species found in the San Joaquin desert of California using radio telemetry. We predicted that lizards are more frequently observed near shrubs due to the positive facilitative benefits shrubs provide. After systematically reviewing the literature on the use of telemetry in deserts, we conducted telemetry habitat surveys of G. sila in Carrizo Plain. Thermoregulation and predator avoidance behaviors were performed more frequently at shrubs, indicating that lizards are likely using shrubs as a source of shelter and refuge. Shelter and refuge are two facilitative benefits that shrubs commonly provided to animals, suggesting that shrubs are facilitating lizards in this environment. As a result, shrub restoration would likely have a positive effect on lizard recovery efforts.