Demography of the Oregon spotted frog along a hydrologically modified river
Altered flow regimes can contribute to dissociation between life history strategies and environmental conditions, leading to reduced persistence reported for many wildlife populations inhabiting regulated rivers. The Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) is a threatened species occurring in floodplains, ponds, and wetlands in the Pacific Northwest with a core range in Oregon, USA. All life stages of R. pretiosa are reliant on aquatic habitats, and inundation patterns across the phenological timeline can have implications for population success. We conducted capture-mark-recapture (CMR) sampling of adult and subadult R. pretiosa at three sites along the Deschutes River downstream from two dams that regulate flows. We related the seasonal extent of inundated habitat at each site to monthly survival probabilities using a robust design CMR model. We also developed matrix projection models to simulate population dynamics into the future under current river flows. Monthly survival was strongly associated with the extent and variability of inundated habitat, suggesting some within-season fluctuations at higher water levels could be beneficial. Seasonal survival was lowest in the winter for all three sites, owing to limited water availability and the greater number of months within this season relative to other seasons. Population growth for the two river-connected sites was most strongly linked to adult survival, whereas population growth at the river-disconnected site was most strongly tied to survival in juvenile stages. This research identifies population effects of seasonally limited water and highlights conservation potential of enhancing survival of particularly influential life stages.