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1.  The herpetofauna of the cloud forests of Honduras 
The cloud forest amphibians and reptiles constitute the most important herpetofaunal segment in Honduras, due to the prevalence of endemic and Nuclear Middle American-restricted species. This segment, however, is subject to severe environmental threats due to the actions of humans. Of the 334 species of amphibians and reptiles currently known from Honduras, 122 are known to be distributed in cloud forest habitats. Cloud forest habitats are found throughout the mountainous interior of Honduras. They are subject to a Highland Wet climate, which features annual precipitation of >1500 mm and a mean annual temperature of <18°C. Cloud forest vegetation falls into two Holdridge formations, the Lower Montane Wet Forest and Lower Montane Moist Forest. The Lower Montane Wet Forest formation generally occurs at elevations in excess of 1500 m, although it may occur as low as 1300+ m at some localities. The Lower Montane Moist Forest formation generally occurs at 1700+ m elevation. Of the 122 cloud forest species, 18 are salamanders, 38 are anurans, 27 are lizards, and 39 are snakes. Ninety-eight of these 122 species are distributed in the Lower Montane Wet Forest formation and 45 in the Lower Montane Moist Forest formation. Twenty species are distributed in both formations. The cloud forest species are distributed among restricted, widespread, and peripheral distributional categories. The restricted species range as a group in elevation from 1340 to 2700 m, the species that are widespread in at least one of the two cloud forest formations range as a group from sea level to 2744 m, and the peripheral species range as a group from sea level to 1980 m. The 122 cloud forest species exemplify ten broad distributional patterns ranging from species whose northern and southern range termini are in the United States (or Canada) and South America, respectively, to those species that are endemic to Honduras. The largest segment of the herpetofauna falls into the endemic category, with the next largest segment being restricted in distribution to Nuclear Middle America, but not endemic to Honduras. Cloud forest species are distributed among eight ecophysiographic areas, with the largest number being found in the Northwestern Highlands, followed by the North-Central Highlands and the Southwestern Highlands. The greatest significance of the Honduran herpetofauna lies in its 125 species that are either Honduran endemics or otherwise Nuclear Middle American-restricted species, of which 83 are distributed in the country's cloud forests. This segment of the herpetofauna is seriously endangered as a consequence of exponentially increasing habitat destruction resulting from deforestation, even given the existence of several biotic reserves established in cloud forest. Other, less clearly evident environmental factors also appear to be implicated. As a consequence, slightly over half of these 83 species (50.6%) have populations that are in decline or that have disappeared from Honduran cloud forests. These species possess biological, conservational, and economic significance, all of which appear in danger of being lost.
PMCID: PMC289145  PMID: 15029253
Cloud forests; Honduras; amphibians; reptiles; herpetofauna
2.  The conservation status of the herpetofauna of Honduras 
The conservation status of the members of the Honduran herpetofauna is discussed. Based on current and projected future human population growth, it is posited that the entire herpetofauna is endangered. The known herpetofauna of Honduras currently consists of 334 species, including 117 amphibians and 217 reptiles (including six marine reptiles, which are not discussed in this paper). The greatest number of species occur at low and moderate elevations in lowland and/or mesic forest formations, in the Northern and Southern Cordilleras of the Serranía, and the ecophysiographic areas of the Caribbean coastal plain and foothills. Slightly more than one-third of the herpetofauna consists of endemic species or those otherwise restricted to Nuclear Middle America. Honduras is an area severely affected by amphibian population decline, with close to one-half of the amphibian fauna threatened, endangered, or extinct. The principal threats to the survival of members of the herpetofauna are uncontrolled human population growth and its corollaries, habitat alteration and destruction, pollution, pest and predator control, overhunting, and overexploitation. No Honduran amphibians or reptiles are entirely free of human impact. A gauge is used to estimate environmental vulnerability of amphibian species, using measures of extent of geographic range, extent of ecological distribution, and degree of specialization of reproductive mode. A similar gauge is developed for reptiles, using the first two measures for amphibian vulnerability, and a third scale for the degree of human persecution. Based on these gauges, amphibians and reptiles show an actual range of Environmental Vulnerability Scores (EVS) almost as broad as the theoretical range. Based on the actual EVS, both amphibian and reptilian species are divided into three categories of low, medium, and high vulnerability. There are 24 low vulnerability amphibians and 47 reptiles, 43 medium vulnerability amphibians and 111 reptiles, and 50 high vulnerability amphibians and 53 reptiles. Theoretical EVS values are assessed against available information on current population status of endemic and Nuclear Middle American taxa. Almost half (48.8%) of the endemic species of Honduran amphibians are already extinct or have populations that are in decline. Populations of 40.0% of the Nuclear Middle American amphibian species are extirpated or in decline. A little less than a third (27.0%) of the endemic reptiles are thought to have declining populations. Almost six of every ten (54.5%) of the Nuclear Middle American reptilian species are thought to have declining populations. EVS values provide a useful indicator of potential for endangerment, illustrating that the species whose populations are currently in decline or are extinct or extirpated have relatively high EVS. All high EVS species need to be monitored closely for changes in population status. A set of recommendations are offered, assuming that biotic reserves in Honduras can be safeguarded, that it is hoped will lead to a system of robust, healthy, and economically self-sustaining protected areas for the country's herpetofauna. These recommendations will have to be enacted swiftly, however, due to unremitting pressure from human population growth and the resulting deforestation.
PMCID: PMC289144  PMID: 15029252
Conservation status; amphibians; reptiles; herpetofauna; Honduras; distribution

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