Herpetofaunal Species Presence in Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris ) versus Native Vegetation‐Dominated Habitats at Uluṟu‐Kata Tjuṯa National Park

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Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris ) has been established in Uluṟu‐Kata Tjuta National Park since 1968. To date, the influence of buffel grass on the Park's flora and fauna has been largely unassessed. The objectives of this study were to determine if buffel grass dominates vegetation communities at the base of Uluṟu and if buffel grass habitats are associated with lower reptile and amphibian species richness than endemic vegetation communities. We used vegetation transects to measure the amount of buffel grass and genera of endemic vegetation at 26 sampling locations around the base of Uluṟu. The vegetation survey data were paired with pitfall trap data from reptile and amphibian captures at the same sampling locations. Indicator species analysis and non‐metric multidimensional scaling were used to analyse the vegetation and herpetofaunal community data. Our analyses determined five distinct vegetation communities around Uluṟu. At the base of Uluṟu, buffel grass dominated half of sampled areas and the rest of the inselberg's base was dominated by Themeda grasses. Buffel grass habitats had significantly higher herpetofaunal species richness than the Themeda habitats that dominated other areas at Uluṟu's base. Herpetofauna species richness in buffel grass‐dominated habitats was also significantly higher than all vegetation communities except for Triodia‐dominated habitats. These observations do not directly indicate that buffel grass presence promotes higher species richness of reptiles and amphibians since the observed patterns may be driven by factors such as proximity to breeding sites and abiotic variables not directly related to the grass itself.