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  • Dave Klinges

Dave completes another Madagascar field season

We are interested in understanding where, when, and why climate change or land-use change is a greater threat to biodiversity and natural resources. We use a combination of geospatial tools, high-powered computing, and on-the-ground data collection to map and model from local to global scales. At the moment, our current exploration of this area of research is to understand what types of land use–rice paddies, forest fragments, cassava fields, and so on – are climatically suitable for reptiles and amphibians (herps). To do this, we perform standardized surveys of herps in all common types of land use in Southeastern Madagascar, and then bring the animals back to our field camp to confirm species identification and measure morphology.

Then, we conduct a series of (non-lethal!) thermal and moisture experiments with a set of diverse species, to identify what range of temperatures can each species maintain adequate performance (to be able to flee from a simulated predator). If an animal cannot effectively flee after exposure to sufficiently hot, cold, or dry conditions in the lab, then we expect the same animal could not tolerate such conditions out in the field.

Herizo shows Gista and Tata how to perform amphibian morphology measurements while Aina supervises from above.

We then pair these experiments with microclimate data– loggers that we have deployed in all of our surveyed habitats– to understand what the climate of each habitat is like, and whether a given species would be able to “tolerate” the climate of that habitat. Finally, we compare the most “climatically suitable” habitats with the habitats in which we found the most species or highest abundance– is herp biodiversity highest in the locations that provide refuge from dry, hot conditions, or are they resilient despite the heat? Through this line of work, we are beginning to identify places that are of most utility to this hyperdiverse, endemic animal community– and from our preliminary analyses it appears that both forests and agriculture may possibly be suitable refuge for the reptiles and amphibians of Madagascar. Through this continued work, we may be able to help inform conservation efforts that seek to find the right balance between human food production and biodiverse ecosystems.

Our 2022 field team!

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