Fourteen native lizard species inhabit the desert surrounding Phoenix, AZ, USA, but only two occur within heavily developed areas. This pattern is best explained by a combination of socioeconomic status, land-cover, and location. Lizard diversity is highest in affluent areas and lizard abundance is greatest near large patches of open desert. The percentage of building cover had a strong negative impact on both diversity and abundance. Despite Phoenix's intense urban heat island effect, which strongly constrains the potential activity and microhabitat use of lizards in summer, thermal patterns have not yet impacted their distribution and relative abundance at larger scales. As Phoenix emerges from an economic recession, efforts to restrict urban sprawl and encourage higher density development could lower water and energy use while benefiting lizards in undisturbed habitats. However, this would likely exacerbate the urban heat island effect, and pose a threat to native species within the urban landscape.
- Urban heat island
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation