Barriers for conservation: mitigating the impact on amphibians and reptiles by water cisterns in arid environments

Anthropogenic infrastructures are one of the major threats to biodiversity. In the north-western Sahara shepherds are increasingly building water cisterns of reinforced concrete for watering livestock. These infrastructures attract desert fauna and act as indiscriminate death traps for the amphibians and reptiles (herps) in the surrounding habitats. Here we propose an on-site, cost-effective management measure. We selected two groups of 36 cisterns, managed a group by covering the lateral openings with wire mesh (managed cistern), leaving the other group unmanaged (control cistern). Managed cisterns trapped fewer species, fewer individuals (one third), and individuals of smaller body size and of less conservation concern than did control cisterns. In a multivariate approach by Generalized Mixed Models, the best models explaining the number of species and individuals of herps trapped within cisterns included as the predictor only the management condition, with a trend for higher values in control cisterns.