Great Basin Naturalist


In this study, we have examined the effect of vegetation structure on the three major vertebrate taxa in Great Basin habitats of southwestern Utah. The effect of increasing vegetation heterogeneity, both horizontally and vertically, on the diversities of lizards, rodents, and postbreeding birds was investigated. We found no statistically significant relationship between diversity of all animal taxa and horizontal vegetation heterogeneity, although lizard diversity tended to decrease with increasing heterogeneity and rodent diversity tended to increase. Bird species diversity was positively correlated with vertical habitat heterogeneity. Abundances were highest for rodents in pinyon/juniper habitat and highest for lizards and birds in areas with the highest grass cover. Species richness was highest in sagebrush habitat for rodents but highest for lizards and birds in pinyon/juniper. Evenness values were relatively similar and high for birds and rodents and were relatively high for lizards in all habitats except for pinyon/juniper, which had an evenness value of 0.38. For rodents and lizards, abundance was significantly correlated with the index for horizontal habitat heterogeneity. After logarithmic transformation, abundance of lizards was positively correlated with increasing vegetation complexity. Combined abundance of lizards and rodents was also positively correlated with vegetation complexity. Rodent and lizard abundances, however, were affected by different aspects of the habitat. After logarithmic transformation, lizard abundances increased significantly with increasing grass cover, whereas rodent abundances increased significantly with increasing shrub cover.