Interactive effects of wildfire, forest management, and isolation on amphibian and parasite abundance

Authors: Blake R Hossack; W H Lowe; R K Honeycutt; S A Parks; P S Corn
Contribution Number: 414


Projected increases in wildfire and other climate-driven disturbances will affect
populations and communities worldwide, including host–parasite relationships. Research in
temperate forests has shown that wildfire can negatively affect amphibians, but this research
has occurred primarily outside of managed landscapes where interactions with human
disturbances could result in additive or synergistic effects. Furthermore, parasites represent a
large component of biodiversity and can affect host fitness and population dynamics, yet they
are rarely included in studies of how vertebrate hosts respond to disturbance. To determine
how wildfire affects amphibians and their parasites, and whether effects differ between
protected and managed landscapes, we compared abundance of two amphibians and two
nematodes relative to wildfire extent and severity around wetlands in neighboring protected
and managed forests (Montana, USA). Population sizes of adult, male long-toed salamanders
(Ambystoma macrodactylum) decreased with increased burn severity, with stronger negative
effects on isolated populations and in managed forests. In contrast, breeding population sizes
of Columbia spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris) increased with burn extent in both protected and
managed protected forests. Path analysis showed that the effects of wildfire on the two species
of nematodes were consistent with differences in their life history and transmission strategies
and the responses of their hosts. Burn severity indirectly reduced abundance of soil-transmitted
Cosmocercoides variabilis through reductions in salamander abundance. Burn severity also
directly reduced C. variabilis abundance, possibly though changes in soil conditions. For the
aquatically transmitted nematode Gyrinicola batrachiensis, the positive effect of burn extent on
density of Columbia spotted frog larvae indirectly increased parasite abundance. Our results
show that effects of wildfire on amphibians depend upon burn extent and severity, isolation,
and prior land use. Through subsequent effects on the parasites, our results also reveal how
changes in disturbance regimes can affect communities across trophic levels.

Publication details
Published Date: 2013
Outlet/Publisher: Ecological Applications 23: 479-492
Media Format: .PDF

ARMI Organizational Units:
Rocky Mountains, Northern - Biology
Climate Change; Fire; Management; Monitoring and Population Ecology; Species and their Ecology; Stressors
Place Names:
Glacier National Park; Montana; Western US
amphibians; ARMI; climate; demographics; ecology; fire; habitat; habitat alteration; habitat effects; habitat use; invertebrates; land cover/land use; life history; management; mark-recapture; monitoring; parasite; population; reproduction; research; roads; stressors; survival; timber harvest; wetlands; wilderness; wildlife habitat
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