Diversify ground vegetation and canopy structure in the habitat around woody crops

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two studies evaluated the effects of diversifying ground vegetation and canopy structure in the habitat around woody crops on reptile populations. One study was in Puerto Rico and the other was in Spain.


  • Richness/diversity (1 study): One replicated, paired, site comparison study in Spain found that olive groves with natural ground cover had higher reptile species richness and diversity than those with bare ground, but groves planted with a single species as ground cover had similar richness and diversity as those with bare ground.


  • Abundance (2 studies): One replicated, site comparison study in Puerto Rico found that two of three lizard species were less abundant in shade-grown coffee plantations than in sun-grown plantations. One replicated, paired, site comparison study in Spain found that olive groves with ground cover had more reptiles than groves with bare ground.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, site comparison study in 2000 in six coffee plantations in north-central Puerto Rico (Borkhataria et al. 2012) found that two of three lizard species were less abundant in shade-grown than sun-grown coffee plantations. Puerto Rican crested anole Anolis cristatellus and barred anole Anolis stratulus were less abundant in shade-grown (crested: 1,642 individuals/m2; barred: 294) than sun-grown coffee plantations (2,034; 631). Upland grass anoles Anolis krugi abundance was similar in shade-grown and sun-grown coffee plantations (shade: 411 individuals/m2; sun: 384). Four further species were observed, but in too low numbers to assess population differences between plantation types. Yellow-chinned anole Anolis. gundlachi and emerald anole Anolis evermanni were mostly observed in shade-grown (yellow: 525 individuals observed; emerald: 241) rather than sun-grown coffee plantations (2; 6), whereas common grass anole Anolis puchellus tended to be less frequently observed in shade-grown compared to sun-grown coffee plantations (shade: 2 individuals observed; sun: 28). Puerto Rican giant anole A. cuvieri observations were the same in shade-grown and sun-grown coffee plantations (5 individuals observed in both). Lizard abundance was estimated using mark-resightings in 4–6 circular 400m2 plots in three sun-grown (closely-spaced 2–3 m high sun tolerant coffee trees with dense foliage) and three shade-grown coffee plantations (irregularly-spaced 2–4 m high coffee (or banana or citrus) trees under a canopy of medium and tall shade trees) in March–May 2000. Each plot was sampled for four consecutive days in spring. Lizards were marked at a distance using tree-marking spray paint guns and latex house paint.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, paired, site comparison study in 2014–2015 in seven olive groves in Andalusia, Spain (Carpio et al. 2017) found that olive groves with natural ground crop cover had greater reptile species richness, diversity and higher reptile counts than groves with bare ground, whereas planted crop ground cover had more reptile observations, but not richness or diversity than bare ground. Reptile observations were higher in olive groves with ground cover (natural cover: 10 individuals/site; planted cover: 8) than groves with bare ground (5). Species richness was highest in olive groves with natural ground cover (2 species/site) compared to planted ground cover (1) or bare ground (1). Species diversity was higher in natural cover crop (Shannon Index: 2) than bare ground (1), but similar to planted cover crops (1). Species diversity in planted cover crops was similar to bare ground. Reptiles were monitored in paired sites in seven olive groves: one site with ground cover (either natural herbaceous cover: 3 sites or planted single-species ground crops: 4 sites), and the other with bare ground (7 sites). Study plots were located within an olive-dominated landscape with almost no natural vegetation, either irrigated or unirrigated, and 10–100 years old. In May and July 2014–2015 reptiles were surveyed using two 1–2 km line transect censuses/site repeated on three warm sunny days. Each transect was surveyed for 30 minutes (336 total transects; 168/year).

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust