Patterns of occurrence of semi-aquatic reptiles in highly invaded Mediterranean rivers.
The fluvial systems in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula are highly disturbed habitats, with widespread occurrence of alien species. Previous studies have shown that alien species have a major impact on native freshwater fauna, but it is not known what effect they have on semi-aquatic reptiles. Here the author investigated the factors that influence the occurrence of three species of semi-aquatic reptiles, one turtle (Mauremys leprosa) and two snakes (Natrix astreptophora and Natrix maura), at 261 sites in seven rivers/streams in Girona (north-eastern Spain). The studied semi-aquatic reptiles are habitat generalists which can occupy sections of rivers with altered regimes. The relationships of reptile presence to abiotic niche parameters and the presence of alien species were evaluated, as well as the patterns of pairwise co-occurrence between the reptiles. The presence of alien species did impact one out of three reptiles in this community. The association between both species of natricines was weakly negative, suggesting that interspecific competition does not structure their co-occurrences. The removal of alien species is the most appropriate strategy to preserve the complete diversity of native semi-aquatic reptiles.