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Herpetofaunal Diversity in Nagarjun Forest

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  • GoldenGate International College (Affiliated to Tribhuvan University), Kathmandu
  • Himalayan Nature

Abstract and Figures

The composition of amphibians and reptiles diversity in the Nagarjun forest of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park was studied. Purposive transect and opportunistic survey methods were adopted to estimate species diversity. The species caught during survey were identified on the spot using field guide and released in-situ. Transects were distributed across six distinct micro-watersheds in the forest. In total, 134 individuals belonging to 11 species were observed. The spatial distribution patterns of the species were also mapped. The condition and potential threat of the habitat is also assessed during this study.
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Nepal Journal of Science and Technology 12 (2011) 358-365
Herpetofaunal Diversity in Nagarjun Forest
Ganesh K. Pokhrel1, Prakash C. Aryal1, Karan B. Shah2, Bishal Rijal1, Madan K. Suwal1,
Subash C. Kharel1, Evanath Paudel1 and Man K. Dhamala1
1Companions for Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal (CARON) Kathmandu
2Natural History Museum, Soyambhu, Kathmandu
e-mail:ganeshkpokhrel@caron.org.np
Abstract
The composition of amphibians and reptiles diversity in the Nagarjun forest of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
was studied. Purposive transect and opportunistic survey methods were adopted to estimate species diversity. The
species caught during survey were identified on the spot using field guide and released in-situ. Transects were
distributed across six distinct micro-watersheds in the forest. In total, 134 individuals belonging to 11 species were
observed. The spatial distribution patterns of the species were also mapped. The condition and potential threat of the
habitat is also assessed during this study.
Key words: amphibians, diversity, transect survey, reptiles
Introduction
Herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) are
correspondingly defenseless against the global threats
of deforestation, draining of wetlands, and pollution
from agricultural runoff (Gibbons et al. 2000).
Amphibian populations have suffered widespread
declines and extinctions in recent decades (Kiesecker
et al. 2001). Amphibians are frequently characterized
as having limited dispersal abilities, strong site
fidelity and spatially disjunctive breeding habitat
(Smith & Green 2005). Limited dispersal ability may
further increase the vulnerability of amphibians and
reptiles to changes in climate. Slight changes in water
level in breeding ponds can trigger reproductive
failure and, in a single year, cause a severe drop in
the population size of short-lived species; persistent
changes can lead to extinctions of species (Arau Jo et
al. 2006). Although, the amphibian decline problem
is a serious threat, reptiles appear to be in even
greater danger of extinction worldwide (Gibbons et
al. 2000). So, the assessments of amphibian and
reptile diversity require exploration of previously
unvisited areas, comprehensive surveys of poorly
known areas, and revisiting of localities that have not
been assessed in the last decade (Parra et al. 2007).
South Asia has a rich diversity of amphibian and
reptilian fauna including several unique and endemic
species (Shah & Tiwari 2004). Ecological research
efforts and suitable protection of species naturally
depend on the knowledge of species occurrences in a
particular area. This information in readily accessible
form is lack-ing for several taxonomic groups and
regions in Southeast Asia (Sodhi & Brook 2006). It
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Nepal Journal of Science and Technology 12 (2011) 358-365
appears that only about 50% of the biodiversity of
amphibians in South Asia has been discovered.
However, there is increasing habitat loss and
fragmentation, which are rapidly depleting amphibian
populations. Very few species have been described
from disturbed habitats, indicating a diminished
species composition when compared with the original
habitat (Molur 2008).
Fourteen species of herpetofauna are endemic to
Nepal. A total of 17 herpetofaunal species are
enlisted as threatened in Nepal, of which six species
are globally threatened (Bhuju et al. 2007). As
herpetofauna is one of the poorly studied faunal
group in the country, their present status is also
poorly known (CEPF 2005). A publication
“Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal” edited by
Schleich and Catstle (2002) provides an account of
50 amphibians and 123 reptiles. The herpetofauna in
Nepal is relatively richer compared to other South
Asian countries well over 206 species and sub-
species, including 59 amphibian species of which 15
are listed as globally threatened. Amphibians and
reptiles of Nepal face severe threat of extinction.
Nepal has a reduced species composition compared
with the 2001 checklists (Molur 2008).
Biodiversity resource profile indicates the current
checklists of Shivapuri National Park include 3
herpetofauna species. But, this is sought to be the gap
in study of herpetofauna in the park. This gap has
created a situation of ‘No names, no conservation’ for
herpetofauna since no systematic exploration works
are ongoing. The park has different habitat conditions
owing to topographical and microclimatic variations.
The study is carried out with the aim to generate the
current status of herpetofauna in the area and to
sensitize the conservation efforts. Further, it is
expected to minimize the gap in herpetological
studies in Nepal. This paper has revealed the status of
amphibians and reptiles diversity of Nagarjuna forest
at different habitat.
Study area
The study area, Nagarjun forest, is inside the
Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. The area covers
16 km2 in the western part of the national park. The
study area extends from base of Nagarjun forest
(around 1350 m a.s.l.) to top of Nagarjun hill (2100m
a.s.l.). The study area is one of the important natural
areas along the Kathmandu valley rim.
Fig.1. Depicts location of the study area
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Ganesh K. Pokhrel et al./Herpetofaunal Diversity ......
Nagarjun forest area is a typical Mahabharat hill and
bears mostly sub-tropical type of climate and partly
temperate climate (Chaudhary 1998). The southern
side is sunny and is evidently much drier than the
northern forested side. The climatic data of the
Nagarjun area is not available. According to the
climatic data of nearest meteorological stations i.e.
Dhunibesi and Kakani, average relative humidity of
the area ranges from 54.7 %(April) at Dhunibesi to
94.29% (July) at Kakani. Similarly, the average
monthly rainfall ranges from 5.15 mm (December) to
548.73mm (July).
Methodology
The field methods involved the approaches for the
basic exploration of the herpetofauna in the Nagarjun
forest area. Purposive transect method was adopted in
order to sampling in the area for intensive study
(Fig.2). Diurnal transect walks were carried to locate
the amphibians and reptiles. Hand picking (using
equipments for handling the reptiles and amphibians)
method was used in all the sites. The species caught
during survey were spot identified using field guide
of Shah and Tiwari (2004) and released in-situ.
Opportunistic surveys were also carried out in other
parts from sample transects based on Gardner and
Fitzherbert (2007).
Field surveys were carried out during June-August,
2009 for 20 days covering 6 watersheds in Nagarjuna
forest. In each transect (along the forest trails and
streams) four persons walked covering the distance of
10 m on both sides. During walking along the
transects, species were searched by overturning the
logs, looking on the trunk and hollows of trees and
rocks, overturning of stones along the water way, etc.
Geographical position of species encounter location
was recorded by GPS.
The nearby residents were contacted and information
was obtained through interviews. The color
photographs of the potential amphibians and reptiles
were shown to people and asked to explain the
features. Whenever more than one individual in more
than two instances could explain the features, the
species were noted and later consulted with the
herpetologists to confirm the occurrences.
Fig.2. Map showing sampling transects
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Nepal Journal of Science and Technology 12 (2011) 358-365
Results and Discussion
Species diversity
Altogether, 134 individuals belonging to 11 species
of herpetofauna (three amphibians and eight reptiles)
were recorded from the area. Naja kaouthia was
encountered only once. The other species with less
encounter (<10) were Bufo melanostictus,
Trachischium leave, Mabuya carinata, Amphiesma
platyceps and Japalura variegate. Five species
namely, Japalura variegate, Trachischium tenuiceps,
Asymblepharus sikimmensis, Calotes versicolor
versicolor, Megophrys parva and Limnonectes
syhadrensis were observed commonly i.e. >10
individuals. Megophrys parva was the most
commonly observed species among all (and
amphibians) whereas Calotes versicolor versicolor
was the most common among reptiles.
Table 1. Species encountered in Nagarjun during the forest survey (June-August)
* R = Rare; O = Occasional; C = Common
SN Species Family No. of Individuals Abundance
1 Naja kaouthia Elapidae 1 R
2 Bufo melanostictus Bufonidae 3 O
3 Trachischium leave Colubridae 3 O
4 Mabuya carinata Scincidae 5 C
5 Amphiesma platyceps Colubridae 7 C
6 Limnonectes syhadrensis Ranidae 13 C
7 Trachischium tenuiceps Colubridae 14 C
8 Asymblepharus sikimmensis Scincidae 22 C
9 Calotes versicolor versicolor Agamidae 24 C
10 Megophrys parva Megophrydae 35 C
11 Japalura variegata Agamidae 7 C
Total Individuals 134
Some of the species records were made through the local information. The following five species (1 amphibian and
4 reptiles) records were made through the secondary sources.
Table 2. Species information from secondary sources
SN Species Common Name Source
1 Ophiophagus hannah King cobra NHM*
2 Varanus bengalensis Common monitor Local Residents
3 Paa leigibii Liebig’s Paa frog Local Residents
4 Trimeresurus albolabris White lipped pit viper Local Residents
5 Ptyas mucosa mucosa Asiatic rat snake Local Residents
* Natural History Museum, Kathmandu
361
Ganesh K. Pokhrel et al./Herpetofaunal Diversity ......
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
K
Fig. 3. Amphibians and reptiles encountered in the Nagarjun forest: (A) Bufo melanostictus;(B) Limnonectes
syhadrensis;(C) Megophrys parva;(D) Naja kaouthia;(E) Trachischium leave;(F) Trachischium tenuiceps;(G)
Asymblepharus sikimmensis;(H) Japalura variegate;(I) Mabuya carinata;(J) Amphiesma platyceps;(K) Calotes
versicolor.
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Nepal Journal of Science and Technology 12 (2011) 358-365
Distribution of Herpetofauna
The habitat comprises of shrub area, slight to
moderately dense forests along with some springs
making a combination of aquatic habitats at places.
The good forest growths and springs make diverse
habitat conditions for herpetofauna in Nagarjun
forest. The slope landscape, caves and varied
microclimatic conditions harbour diverse
herpetofaunal species. Surveys were carried out in
and around water bodies (streams). None of the
species encountered during the entire field survey in
the water bodies. Using the GPS points of the site
observations, the distribution of herpetofauna was
mapped (Fig.4) in Arc GIS 9.2.
Fig.4. Species distribution map in Nagarjuna forest
363
Ganesh K. Pokhrel et al./Herpetofaunal Diversity ......
All the species of snakes (Elapidae and Colubridae)
and frogs (Bufonidae, Megophrydae, Ranidae)
observed during the survey were within a distance of
50m from water bodies. On the other hand the
species of Agamidae (Lizards) and Scincidae
(Skinks) were encountered independent of the
distance of water bodies.
Conservation Issues
Nagarjuna forest is away from grazing problems.
However, other human activities were not
uncommon. Road networks linking villages to
Kathmandu were major disturbance factors.
Accidental killings of herps along the road were
observed. And annual clearings of road edges were
also noticed. The forest is protected but clearings of
forest floor by security (Nepal Army) also disturbed
the habitat of herps. It was also observed that illegal
entry of hikers/trekkers/picnickers inside the forest
also disturbed the herpetofaunal species. Illegal
fishing in the stream was also seen as a disturbance
factors to the herptofauna. Local practices of fuel
wood and fodder collection were frequent in the area;
particularly near the settlements which also degrade
the habitat.
Acknowledgements
We are most grateful to Nepal Academy of Science
and Technology (NAST) for research grant to carry
out the study in the area. Our sincere thank goes to
the Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Conservation (DNPWC) and Sivapuri Nagarjun
National Park office and Nepal Army for giving
permission to conduct the study in the area. We thank
Mr. Bed Prasad Bhurtel, Mr. Laxman Phuyal, Mr.
Yagya Bhatt, Mr. Resham Baniya and Mr. Roshan
Rijal for their help during field work.
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... Paa to Nanorana (Che et al. 2010)), and one of these books has been criticised as inaccurate, creating challenges for herpetological researchers working in Nepal (Dubois 2004). Several herpetofaunal surveys have been conducted in National Parks and protected areas, including Annapurna Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, Chitwan National Park, and in Parsa National Park, but with less emphasis on species composition in unprotected areas (Nanhoe and Ouboter 1987;Zug and Mitchell 1995;Pokhrel et al. 2011;Aryal et al. 2013;Shrestha 2013;Khatiwada and Haugaasen 2015;Pokhrel and Thakuri 2016;Bhattarai et al. 2017;Shrestha and Shah 2017;Bhattarai et al. 2018;Pandey et al. 2018; except see Khatiwada et al. 2017). ...
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Amphibian populations have suffered widespread declines and extinctions in recent decades. Although climatic changes, increased exposure to ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation and increased prevalence of disease have all been implicated at particular localities, the importance of global environmental change remains unclear. Here we report that pathogen outbreaks in amphibian populations in the western USA are linked to climate-induced changes in UV-B exposure. Using long-term observational data and a field experiment, we examine patterns among interannual variability in precipitation, UV-B exposure and infection by a pathogenic oomycete, Saprolegnia ferax. Our findings indicate that climate-induced reductions in water depth at oviposition sites have caused high mortality of embryos by increasing their exposure to UV-B radiation and, consequently, their vulnerability to infection. Precipitation, and thus water depth/UV-B exposure, is strongly linked to El Niño/Southern Oscillation cycles, underscoring the role of large-scale climatic patterns involving the tropical Pacific. Elevated sea-surface temperatures in this region since the mid-1970s, which have affected the climate over much of the world, could be the precursor for pathogen-mediated amphibian declines in many regions.
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Amphibians are frequently characterized as having limited dispersal abilities, strong site fidelity and spatially disjunct breeding habitat. As such, pond-breeding species are often alleged to form metapopulations. Amphibian species worldwide appear to be suffering population level declines caused, at least in part, by the degradation and fragmentation of habitat and the intervening areas between habitat patches. If the simplification of amphibians occupying metapopulations is accurate, then a regionally based conservation strategy, informed by metapopulation theory, is a powerful tool to estimate the isolation and extinction risk of ponds or populations. However, to date no attempt to assess the class-wide generalization of amphibian populations as metapopulations has been made. We reviewed the literature on amphibians as metapopulations (53 journal articles or theses) and amphibian dispersal (166 journal articles or theses for 53 anuran species and 37 salamander species) to evaluate whether the conditions for metapopulation structure had been tested, whether pond isolation was based only on the assumption of limited dispersal, and whether amphibian dispersal was uniformly limited. We found that in the majority of cases (74%) the assumptions of the metapopulation paradigm were not tested. Breeding patch isolation via limited dispersal and/or strong site fidelity was the most frequently implicated or tested metapopulation condition, however we found strong evidence that amphibian dispersal is not as uniformly limited as is often thought. The frequency distribution of maximum movements for anurans and salamanders was well described by an inverse power law. This relationship predicts that distances beneath 11–13 and 8–9 km, respectively, are in a range that they may receive one emigrating individual. Populations isolated by distances approaching this range are perhaps more likely to exhibit metapopulation structure than less isolated populations. Those studies that covered larger areas also tended to report longer maximum movement distances – a pattern with implications for the design of mark-recapture studies. Caution should be exercised in the application of the metapopulation approach to amphibian population conservation. Some amphibian populations are structured as metapopulations – but not all.
Article
The global conservation crisis facing amphibians requires regional taxonomic-based assessments of conservation status. The current and probable future needs for captive-breeding facilities in zoos and other institutions are revealed by the number, habitat and life-cycle types of threatened candidate species in the region. The geopolitical region of South Asia is home to four biodiversity hotspots with very high faunal, floral and fungal diversity. A total of 348 amphibians is currently described from the eight countries of the region, and India and Sri Lanka show very high amphibian diversity. In this paper, I compare and contrast the first regional amphibian biodiversity assessments from 1997 with more recent assessments. This includes a checklist of all amphibians in the region, with new taxonomic information added, especially from the Global Amphibian Assessment. A summary of amphibian biodiversity statistics, the kinds of threats facing amphibians and the current status of species in South Asia is given. Twenty species are Extinct, 26 Critically Endangered, 66 Endangered, 26 Vulnerable, 11 Near Threatened, 30 Least Concern and 77 Data Deficient. The cooperation and contributions of the more than 250 amphibian biologists, academics, taxonomists, amateurs, photographers and educators in the Amphibian Network of South Asia (ANSA) were essential for the assessments and this comparative study. The successful model of a networking principle and activities of the ANSA are also discussed. The role of chytridiomycosis in species declines is unknown owing to a lack of surveys on the presence of chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Although most of the threatened and Extinct species are anurans, the bush frog group of frogs seems to be the most speciose and also the most threatened group owing to highly restricted distributions. The Philautus genus would be an ideal group to breed in captivity owing to its direct development cycle.
Article
We present data on sample richness, relative abundance, and community structure of a leaf litter amphibian assemblage from globally important miombo-mopane woodlands characteristic of western Tanzania. We describe patterns of diversity across major habitat types and between different seasons from an annual pitfall-trapping campaign. We recorded 28 species of amphibians, which is significantly higher than existing richness estimates for other miombo woodland sites elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. We found that cultivation of native habitat reduces frog diversity, a conclusion that has important implications in light of the rapid conversion of miombo woodland for agriculture and fuel-wood across much of southern and central Africa. Many species showed strongly ansynchronized patterns of seasonality in relative abundance, which has significant implications for the establishment of successful monitoring programs and biodiversity surveys. These conclusions emphasize the importance of stratified long-term sampling in biodiversity studies and demonstrate that superficial levels of sampling effort can lead to erroneous conclusions regarding patterns of diversity in amphibian communities. The relatively poor focus on herpetofaunal research in African miombo-mopane woodland is out of proportion to its ecological and conservation significance.
Amphibians and reptiles of Nepal
  • H Schleich
  • W Herman
  • Kastle
Schleich, H. Herman and W. Kastle. 2002. Amphibians and reptiles of Nepal. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K. G., Germany.
Systematics and conservation
  • G Parra
  • R Brown
  • J Hanken
  • B Hedges
  • R Heyer
  • S Kuzmin
  • E Lavilla
  • S Lötters
  • B Pimenta
  • S Richards
  • M O Rödel
  • R O De Sá
  • D Wake
Parra, G., R. Brown, J. Hanken, B. Hedges, R. Heyer, S. Kuzmin, E. Lavilla, S. Lötters, B. Pimenta, S. Richards, M. O. Rödel, R. O. de Sá, and D. Wake. 2007. Systematics and conservation. In: Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (Eds C. Gascon, J. P.
Herpetofauna of Nepal: A Conservation Companion
  • K B Shah
  • S Tiwari
Shah, K. B., and S. Tiwari. 2004. Herpetofauna of Nepal: A Conservation Companion. IUCN-Nepal, Kathmandu Nepal, Viii+237 pp.