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Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

ARMI » Topics » Stressors


Gary Fellers, air quality.
G. Fellers (ARMI) changing a filter in an air sampler that is used to measure agricultural chemicals that drift into Yosemite NP, California. Photo by: J. Fellers.

Declines in amphibian populations have occurred not only on areas clearly impacted by human activities such as urbanization, but also on protected lands intended to buffer amphibians and other wildlife from anthropogenic disturbances. Some stressors are not stopped by preserve boundaries and can affect wildlife populations 10's or 100's of kilometers from their source or point of use. For example, pesticides, fertilizers, or supplements given to livestock can be transported from the terrestrial setting where they are applied, to aquatic environments via precipitation, run-off, erosion, wind, and misuse. Conversely, some contaminants such as mercury or selenium occur naturally, but can be concentrated, or disturbed and released into the environment by human activities. Amphibian populations can be exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, producing novel conditions with unknown outcomes.

ARMI scientists conduct research to identify stressors and evaluate their impacts on amphibian individuals and populations.

ARMI Products on Stressors

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This is an ARMI Product. Glyphosate and its degradation product AMPA occur frequently and widely in U.S. soils, surface water, groundwater, and precipitation
Author: Battaglin W, Meyer M, Kuivila K, Dietze J | Date: 2014 | Outlet: Journal of the American Water Resources Association 50(2): 275-290. | Format: URL
Glyphosate use in the US increased from less than 5,000 to more than 80,000 metric tons per year between 1987 and 2007. Glyphosate is popular due to its ease of use on soybean, cotton and corn crops that are genetically modified to tolerate it, utility in no-till farming practices, utility in urban areas, and the perception that it has low toxicity and little mobility in the environment. This compilation is the largest and most comprehensive assessment of the environmental occurrence of glyphosate and AMPA in the US conducted to date, summarizing the results of 3,732 water and sediment and 1,018 quality-assurance samples collected between 2001 and 2010 from 38 States. Results indicate that glyphosate and AMPA are usually detected together, mobile, and occur widely in the environment. Glyphosate was detected without AMPA in only 2.3% of samples, whereas AMPA was detected without glyphosate in 17.9% of samples. Glyphosate and AMPA were detected frequently in soils and sediment, ditches and drains, precipitation, rivers, and streams; and less frequently in lakes, ponds, and wetlands; soil water; and groundwater. Concentrations of glyphosate were below levels of concern for humans or wildlife; however, pesticides are often detected in mixtures. Ecosystem effects of chronic low-level exposures to pesticide mixtures are uncertain. The environmental health risk of low-level detections of glyphosate, AMPA, and associated adjuvants and mixtures remain to be determined.

This is an ARMI Product. The effects of hydropattern and predator communities on amphibian occupancy
Authors: Amburgey S, Bailey L, Murphy M, Muths E, Funk W | Date: 2014-09-23 | Outlet: Canadian Journal of Zoology | Format: URL
Complex, interactive ecological constraints regulate species distributions, and understanding these factors is crucial for predicting species persistence. We used occupancy analysis, which corrects for imperfect detection, to test the importance of abiotic and biotic habitat and landscape factors on probability of occupancy by boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata; Agassiz 1850) tadpoles. We hypothesized that hydropattern and predators are primarily important as they affect desiccation and predation risk and can interact in ways difficult to predict. We surveyed 62 wetland sites across an elevational gradient in Colorado, USA and modeled patterns in P. maculata occupancy. Tadpoles were most frequently present in intermediate hydropattern systems with lower desiccation risk and no predatory fish due to occasional drying. P. maculata occupancy had a strong negative relationship with fish presence while tadpoles, odonate larvae and tiger salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium; Baird 1850) frequently co-occurred. Dry seasonal conditions will likely result in fewer intermediate hydropattern ponds available for amphibian breeding. We hypothesize that this will force P. maculata to breed in habitats with fish. As habitats shrink, predators that co-occur with P. maculata are expected to concentrate in the remaining habitat and increase predation risk for developing tadpoles (assuming predators are similarly constricted in their habitat use as amphibians are).

This is an ARMI Product. Indicators of the Statuses of Amphibian Populations and Their Potential for Exposure to Atrazine in Four Midwestern U.S. Conservation Areas
Authors: Sadinski W, Roth M, Hayes T, Jones P, Gallant A | Date: 2014-09-12 | Outlet: PLoS ONE 9(9): e107018. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107018 | Format: .PDF
Extensive corn production in the midwestern United States has physically eliminated or fragmented vast areas of historical amphibian habitat. Midwestern corn farmers also apply large quantities of fertilizers and herbicides, which can cause direct and indirect effects on amphibians. Limited field research regarding the statuses of midwestern amphibian populations near areas of corn production has left resource managers, conservation planners, and other stakeholders needing more information to improve conservation strategies and management plans. We repeatedly sampled amphibians in wetlands in four conservation areas along a gradient of proximity to corn production in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin from 2002 to 2005 and estimated site occupancy. We measured frequencies of gross physical deformities in recent metamorphs and triazine concentrations in the water at breeding sites. We also measured trematode infection rates in kidneys of recently metamorphosed Lithobates pipiens collected from nine wetlands in 2003 and 2004. We detected all possible amphibian species in each study area. The amount of nearby row crops was limited in importance as a covariate for estimating site occupancy. We observed deformities in <5% of metamorphs sampled and proportions were not associated with triazine concentrations. Trematode infections were high in metamorphs from all sites we sampled, but not associated with site triazine concentrations, except perhaps for a subset of sites sampled in both years. We detected triazines more often and in higher concentrations in breeding wetlands closer to corn production. Triazine concentrations increased in floodplain wetlands as water levels rose after rainfall and were similar among lotic and lentic sites. Overall, our results suggest amphibian populations were not faring differently among these four conservation areas, regardless of their proximity to corn production, and that the ecological dynamics of atrazine exposure were complex.

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