The effect of land use on the species composition of amphibians in North Eastern KwaZulu-Natal.
Global declines in amphibian species have directed research towards investigating why this is happening. One of the major causes of these declines is the fragmentation and loss of habitat. This study examined the effect of land use on the species composition of frogs within North Eastern KwaZulu-Natal, and the use of buffer zones to facilitate the protection of these species. Three land use types were investigated: sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), gum (Eucalyptus sp.) plantations and conservation areas. The average number of frog species differed between areas: conservation 13.2 ± 6.6; plantations 3.8 ± 1.3; and sugar cane 2.8 ± 1.4. Sugar and gum plantation were found to be lacking the wetland and grassland/woodland habitats. In addition to this, the frog species that were not present on these land use types were those that are totally dependent on water as well as those that are not dependent on a water source. Two species were highlighted as possible indicator species of land use: Amietophrynus gutturalis and Hyperolius marmoratus. To mitigate the effect of these land use types, the use of buffer zones was explored in a desktop study. A range of buffer zones were applied to wetlands in a sample study area, using a range of distances including the distances of 290 m and 159 m recommended by Semlitsch and Bodie (2003), and the recommended distances for wetlands in South Africa of 10-20 m. The application of a 290 m and 159 m buffer zone on a conglomerate of wetlands connected by a 100m buffer was the most feasible as it incorporated a percentage of the total study (6.4% and 4.3%) area similar to the percentage occupied by the recommended 20m buffer zone (5.5%) around all wetlands, and still incorporated the range under protection put forward by Semlitsch and Bodie (2003). Management implications of these findings are discussed.