P3.34 Friday, Jan. 6 Anthropogenic Impacts on Herpetofaunal Diversity and Community Structure on a Developed Barrier Island in South Carolina HANSON, KM*; MCELROY, EJ; College of Charleston; College of Charleston email@example.com
Reptiles and amphibians are integral parts of myriad ecosystems, but their well-documented population declines pose a serious threat to the integrity of these systems. Habitat loss and alternation, as a result of human development, are seen as the main causes of biodiversity loss throughout the world. Few areas are more affected by human development than barrier islands, where a finite amount of land is clearly defined and, on small temporal scales, plant and animal populations are isolated. Despite the abundance of barrier islands and herpetofauna in the southeast, no previous study has investigated whether human development alters herpetofaunal diversity or community structure on these islands. We tested this hypothesis by collecting herpetofauna community data on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, a private island that has been developed continuously from west to east over the past 35 years. This directional development has resulted in a gradient of developmental density across the island. We found that the east end of the island, with low developmental density, harbors the greatest number of species in the highest densities. In fact, this area accounted for more than 50% of all animals caught during the study. The remaining areas (high and moderate development) were similar in number of species and individuals caught. This suggests alternate explanations for the patterns of herpetofaunal diversity observed during this study. Additional data such as the development history of each area and other habitat characteristics would help enlighten the reasons for the similarities in herpetofaunal diversity between the high and moderate areas, but not the low area.