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Papers & Reports Trade-offs in initial and long-term handling efficiency of PIT-tag and photographic identification methods
Authors: Lindsey Roberts; Bennett Hardy; Erin Muths; Abigail Feuka; L L Bailey
Date: 2021-07 | Outlet: Ecological Indicators
Individual identification is required for long-term investigations that examine population-level changes in survival or abundance, and mechanisms associated with these changes in wild populations. Such identification generally requires the application of a unique mark, or the documentation of characteristics distinctive to each individual animal. To minimize impacts to often declining populations, scientific and ethical concerns encourage marking strategies that minimize handling time (i.e., stress) for captured individuals. We examined the relative efficacy of passive integrated transponder (PIT)-tagging and photo-identification to identify individual Boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) in field and indoor settings. We evaluated whether initial handling time was influenced by identification method (PIT-tag or photo-identification) or environment (field or indoor) and assessed the applicability of each method in long-term monitoring programs. Initial handling time was higher for PIT-tagging than photo-identification and higher in the field than in an indoor environment; however, handling time for previously PIT-tagged individuals was greatly reduced such that photo-identification led to > 5.5 times more handling time than PIT-tagging over the course of a toad's lifetime. Investigators must determine the trade-off between initial and subsequent handling times to minimize the expected cumulative handling time for an individual over the course of a study. Cumulative handling time is a function of the study design and the species’ survival and detection probabilities. We developed a Shiny Application to allow investigators to determine the identification method that minimizes handling time for their own study system.
Papers & Reports Mapping climate-resistant vernal pools: hydrologic refugia for amphibian reproduction under droughts and climate change
Authors: Evan HC Grant; Jennifer M Cartwright; TL Morelli
Vernal pools of the northeastern United States provide important breeding habitat for amphibians but may be sensitive to droughts and climate change. These seasonal wetlands typically fill by early spring and dry by mid-to-late summer. Because climate change may produce earlier and stronger growing-season evapotranspiration combined with increasing droughts and shifts in precipitation timing, management concerns include the possibility that some pools will increasingly become dry earlier in the year, potentially interfering with amphibian life-cycle completion. In this context, a subset of pools that continue to provide wetland habitat later into the year under relatively dry conditions might function as ecohydrologic refugia, potentially supporting species persistence even as summer conditions become warmer and droughts more frequent. We used approximately 3,000 field observations of inundation from 450 pools to train machine-learning models that predict the likelihood of pool inundation based on pool size, day of the year, climate conditions, short-term weather patterns, and soil, geologic, and landcover attributes. Models were then used to generate predictions of pool wetness across five seasonal time points, three short-term weather scenarios, and four sets of downscaled climate projections. Model outputs are available through a user-friendly website allowing users to choose the inundation thresholds, time points, weather scenarios, and future climate projections most relevant to their management needs. Together with long-term monitoring of individual pools at the site scale, this regional-scale study can support amphibian conservation by helping to identify which pools may be most likely to function as ecohydrologic refugia from droughts and climate change.
Papers & Reports Evaluation of regulatory action and surveillance as preventive risk-mitigation to an emerging global amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal)
Authors: D A Grear; B A Mosher; K LD Richgels; Evan HC Grant
Date: 2021-07-02 | Outlet: Conservation Biology
The emerging amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is a severe threat to global urodelan (salamanders, newts, and related taxa) biodiversity. Bsal has not been detected, to date, in North America, but the risk is high because North America is one of the global hotspots for urodelan biodiversity. The North American and United States response to the discovery of Bsal in Europe was to take a risk-based approach to preventive management actions, including interim regulations on importation of captive salamanders and a large-scale surveillance effort. Risk-based approaches to decision-making can extend to adaptive management cycles by periodically incorporating new information that reduces uncertainty in an estimate of risk or to assess the effect of mitigation actions which reduce risk directly. Our objectives were to evaluate the effects of regulatory action on the introduction of Bsal to the U.S., quantify how a large-scale surveillance effort impacted consequence risk, and to combine other new information on species susceptibility to re-evaluate Bsal risk to the U.S. Import regulations effectively reduced import volume of targeted species, but new research on species susceptibility suggests the list of regulated species was incomplete regarding Bsal reservoir species. Not detecting Bsal in an intensive surveillance effort improved confidence that Bsal was not present, however, the overall risk-reduction impact was limited because of the expansive area of interest (conterminous United States) and limited time frame of sampling. Overall, the preventive actions in response to the Bsal threat did reduce Bsal risk in the U.S. and we present an updated risk assessment to provide information for adaptive decision-making.
Papers & Reports Amphibian population responses to mitigation: relative importance of wetland age and design
Authors: Emily B Oja; L K Swartz; Erin Muths; Blake R Hossack
Date: 2021 | Outlet: Ecological Indicators
Wetland creation is a common practice to mitigate for the loss of natural wetlands. However, there is still uncertainty about how effectively created wetlands replace habitat provided by natural wetlands. This uncertainty is due in part because post-construction monitoring of biological communities, and vertebrates especially, is rare and typically short-term (< 5 years). We estimated occupancy of 4 amphibian species in 8 created mitigation wetlands, 7 impacted wetlands, and 7 reference wetlands in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming, USA. Mitigation wetlands were created to replace wetland habitat that was lost during road construction and ranged in age from 1 to 10 years when sampled. Impacted wetlands were natural wetlands partially filled by road construction and were adjacent to a highway. We sampled for amphibian larvae during 6 summers from 2013 to 2020 and used multi-species occupancy models that estimated detection and occupancy of each of 4 amphibian species to determine how amphibian responses changed over time, especially in mitigation wetlands. Occupancy did not differ between impacted and reference wetlands for any of the 4 amphibian species. Western Toads (Anaxyrus boreas) were most common (although briefly) in created wetlands, and occupancy of Columbia Spotted Frogs (Rana luteiventris), Western Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma mavortium), and Boreal Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris maculata) was lower in created wetlands than in impacted or reference wetlands. Wetland area was positively associated with occupancy for all 4 species and wetland vegetation cover was positively associated with Boreal Chorus Frog and Columbia Spotted Frog occupancy; these results emphasize the importance of design characteristics when planning mitigation wetlands. The link between wetland age and occupancy was complex and included threshold and quadratic relationships for three of the four species, but only Boreal Chorus Frog occupancy was still increasing slowly at the end of our study. Our results indicate created wetlands did not attain the suitability of impacted and natural wetlands for local amphibians, even several years after construction. The complicated relationships between wetland age and species-specific occupancy illustrate the importance of long-term monitoring in describing population responses to the construction of wetlands as mitigation for wetland loss.
Papers & Reports Corticosterone Mediates a Growth-Survival Tradeoff for an Amphibian Exposed to Increased Salinity
Authors: B J Tornabene; Blake R Hossack; E J Crespi; C W Breuner
Outlet: Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A
Life-history tradeoffs are common across taxa, but growth-survival tradeoffs—which usually enhance survival at a cost to growth—are less frequently investigated. Increased salinity (NaCl) is a prevalent anthropogenic disturbance that may cause a growth-survival tradeoff for amphibians. Although physiological mechanisms mediating tradeoffs are seldom investigated, hormones are prime candidates. Corticosterone (CORT) is a steroid hormone that independently influences survival and growth and may provide mechanistic insight into growth-survival tradeoffs. We used 24-d trials to test effects of salinity (0 – 4000 mg/L Cl-) on growth, development, survival, CORT responses, and tradeoffs among traits of larval Northern Leopard Frogs (Rana pipiens). We also tested experimentally suppressed CORT signaling to determine whether CORT signaling mediates effects of salinity and life history tradeoffs . Increased salinity reduced survival, growth, and development. Suppressing CORT signaling in conjunction with salinity reduced survival further, but also attenuated negative effects of salinity on growth and development. CORT of control larvae increased or was stable with growth and development, but decreased with growth and development for those exposed to salinity. Therefore, salinity dysregulated CORT physiology. Across all treatments, larvae that survived had higher CORT than larvae that died. By manipulating CORT signaling, we provide strong evidence that CORT physiology mediates the outcome of a growth-survival tradeoff. To our knowledge, this is the first study to concomitantly measure tradeoffs between growth and survival and experimentally link these changes to CORT physiology. Identifying mechanistic links between stressors and fitness-related outcomes is critical to enhance our understanding of tradeoffs.
Papers & Reports Evaluating Corticosterone as a Biomarker for Amphibians Exposed to Increased Salinity and Ambient Corticosterone
Authors: B J Tornabene; Blake R Hossack; E J Crespi; C W Breuner
Date: 2021-07 | Outlet: Conservation Physiolology 9(1): coab049
Salinization is harmful to amphibians and waterborne corticosterone could be a useful biomarker. Salinity was only associated with waterborne corticosterone for one of three amphibian species. Ambient corticosterone likely confounded associations and possibly influenced amphibian physiology. We provide suggestions to improve reliability of waterborne corticosterone as a biomarker of salt stress.
Papers & Reports Metal accumulation varies with life history, size, and development of larval amphibians
Authors: K L Smalling; Emily B Oja; Danielle M Cleveland; J M Davenport; Collin A Eagles-Smith; Evan HC Grant; Patrick M Kleeman; Brian J Halstead; Kenzi M Stemp; B J Tornabene; Z J Bunnell; Blake R Hossack
Date: 2021-06-26 | Outlet: Environmental Pollution 287: e117638
Amphibian larvae are commonly used as indicators of aquatic ecosystem health because they are susceptible to contaminants. However, there is limited information on how species characteristics and trophic position influence contaminant loads in larval amphibians. Importantly, there remains a need to understand whether grazers (anurans) and predators (salamanders) provide comparable information on contaminant accumulation or if they are each indicative of unique environmental processes and risks. To better understand the role of trophic position in contaminant accumulation, we analyzed composite tissues for 10 metals from larvae of multiple co-occurring anuran and salamander species from 20 wetlands across the United States. We examined how metal concentrations varied with body size (anurans and salamanders) and developmental stage (anurans) and how the digestive tract (gut) influenced observed metal concentrations. Across all wetlands, metal concentrations were greater in anurans than salamanders for all metals tested except mercury, selenium (Se), and zinc (Zn). Concentrations of individual metals in anurans decreased with increasing weight and developmental stage. In salamanders, which are predatory, metal concentrations were less correlated with weight, indicating diet played a role in contaminant accumulation. Based on batches of similarly sized whole-body larvae compared to larvae with their digestive tracts removed our results indicated that tissue type strongly affected perceived concentrations, especially for anurans (gut represented 50–90% of all metals except Se and Zn). This suggest the reliability of results based on whole body sampling could be biased by metal, larval size, and development. Overall, our data suggest that metal concentrations differs among orders (anuran and salamanders) which suggests that metal accumulation is unique to feeding behavior and potentially trophic position. To truly characterize exposure risk in wetlands, species of different life histories, sizes and developmental stages should be included in biomonitoring efforts.
Papers & Reports Staggered-entry analysis of breeding and occupancy dynamics of Arizona Toads from historically occupied habitats of New Mexico, USA
Authors: M J Forzley; M J Ryan; I M Latella; J T Giermakowski; Erin Muths; Brent H Sigafus; Blake R Hossack
Outlet: Copeia
For species with variable phenology, it is often challenging to produce reliable estimates of population dynamics or changes in occupancy. The Arizona Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus) is a southwestern USA endemic that has been petitioned for legal protection, but status assessments are limited by a lack of information on population trends. Also, timing and consistency of Arizona Toad breeding varies greatly, making it difficult to predict optimal survey times or effort required for detection. To help fill these information gaps, we conducted breeding season call surveys during 2013–2016 and 2019 at 86 historically occupied sites and 59 control sites across the species’ range in New Mexico. We estimated variation in mean dates of arrival and departure from breeding sites, changes in occupancy, and site-level extinction since 1959 with recently developed multi-season staggered-entry models, which relax the within-season closure assumption common to most occupancy models. Optimal timing of surveys in our study areas was approximately March 5 - March 30. Averaged across years, estimated probability of occupancy was 0.58 (SE = 0.09) for historical sites and 0.19 (SE = 0.08) for control sites. Occupancy increased from 2013 through 2019. Notably, even though observer error was trivial, annual detection probabilities varied from 0.23 to 0.75 and declined during the study; this means naïve occupancy values would have been misleading, indicating apparent declines in toad occupancy. Occupancy was lowest during the first year of the study, possibly due to changes in stream flows and conditions in many waterbodies following extended drought and recent wildfires. Although within-season closure was violated by variable calling phenology, simple multi-season models provided nearly identical estimates as staggered-entry models. Surprisingly, extinction probability was unrelated to the number of years since the first or last record at historically occupied sites. Collectively, our results suggest a lack of large, recent declines in occupancy by Arizona Toads in New Mexico, but we still lack population information from most of the species’ range.
Papers & Reports Demography of the Oregon spotted frog along a hydrologically modified river
Authors: J C Rowe; Adam Duarte; C A Pearl; B McCreary; P K Haggerty; J W Jones; M J Adams
Date: 2021-06-21 | Outlet: Ecosphere
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.
Papers & Reports Enhanced between-site biosecurity to minimize herpetofaunal disease-causing pathogen transmission
Authors: Deanna H Olson; K H Haman; M J Gray; R N Harris; T Thompson; M Iredale; M Christman; J Williams; M J Adams; J R Ballard
Date: 2021 | Outlet: Herpetological Review
We describe biotic and abiotic factors that interact with field work to contribute to gradients in human-mediated herpetofaunal pathogen transmission (i.e., translocation) risk between sites. Using biotic and abiotic criteria, we identify site conditions that correspond to high risk for pathogen import [to a site] or high risk for pathogen export [from a site] for implementation of enhanced between-site biosecurity procedures to forestall human-mediated pathogen transmission. Our field-site criteria are based on seven contexts of the pathogen (occurrence, habitat), host(s) (occurrence, habitat, species richness), and geography (distance/topography, geopolitical land use) (Table 1). We do not provide an explicit decision tree because site contexts can be complex, and single contexts may be weighted heavily in some biosecurity decisions, warranting case-by-case decisions. A more conceptual decision tree (Fig. 1) about pathogen export or import can be more flexibly applied as site context vary. Our aim is to provide a rapid process to develop a qualitative narrative to support decisions for between-site herpetological disease biosecurity.
Papers & Reports Enigmatic Near-Extinction in a Boreal Toad Metapopulation in Northwestern Montana
Authors: Rebecca M McCaffery; R E Russell; Blake R Hossack
Outlet: Journal of Wildlife Management
North America’s protected lands harbor significant biodiversity and provide habitats where species threatened by a variety of stressors in other environments can thrive. Yet disease, climate change, and other threats are not limited by land management boundaries and can interact with conditions within protected landscapes to affect sensitive populations. We examined the population dynamics of a boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas) metapopulation at a wildlife refuge in northwestern Montana over a 16-year period (2003-2018). We used robust design capture-recapture models to estimate male population size, recruitment, and apparent survival over time and in relation to the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. We estimated female population size in years with sufficient captures. Finally, we examined trends in male and female toad body size and condition. We found no evidence of an effect of disease or time on male toad survival but detected a strong negative trend in recruitment of new males to the population. Estimates of male and female abundance decreased dramatically over time. Body size of males and females was inversely related to estimated population size, consistent with reduced recruitment to replace adults, but body condition of adult males was only weakly associated with abundance. Together, these results describe the demography of a near-extinction event, and point to dramatic decreases in the recruitment of new individuals to the breeding population as the cause of this decline. We surmise that processes related to the restoration of historical hydrology within the refuge adversely affected amphibian breeding habitat, and that these changes interacted with disease, life history, and other factors to restrict the recruitment of new individuals to the breeding population over time. Our results point to challenges in understanding and predicting drivers of population change and highlight that current metrics for assessing population status can have limited predictive ability.
Papers & Reports Why disease ecology needs life-history theory: a host perspective
Authors: Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez; M Wilbur; S Canessa; L Bacigalupe; Erin Muths; Benedikt R Schmidt; A C Cunningham; A Ozgul; P TJ Johnson; Hugo Cayuela
Date: 2020-12 | Outlet: Ecology Letters
When facing an emerging infectious disease of conservation concern, we often have little
information on the nature of the host-parasite interaction to inform management decisions.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the life-history strategies of host species
can be predictive of individual- and population-level responses to infectious disease, even
without detailed knowledge on the specifics of the host-parasite interaction. Here, we argue
that a deeper integration of life-history theory into disease ecology is timely and necessary
to improve our capacity to understand, predict, and mitigate the impact of endemic and
emerging infectious diseases in wild populations. Using wild vertebrates as an example, we
show that host life-history characteristics influence host responses to parasitism at different
levels of organization, from individuals to communities. We also highlight knowledge gaps
and future directions for the study of life-history and host responses to parasitism. We
conclude by illustrating how this theoretical insight can inform the monitoring and control
of infectious diseases in wildlife.
Papers & Reports Monitoring wetland water quality related to livestock grazing in amphibian habitats
Authors: K L Smalling
Date: 2021-01-13 | Outlet: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 193, 58
Land use alteration such as livestock grazing can affect water quality in habitats of at-risk wildlife species. Data from managed wetlands are needed to understand levels of exposure for aquatic life stages and monitor grazing-related changes afield. We quantified spatial and temporal variation in water quality in wetlands occupied by threatened Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) at Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, US. We used analyses for censored data to evaluate the importance of habitat type and grazing history in predicting concentrations of nutrients, turbidity, fecal indicator bacteria (FIB; total coliforms, E. coli, and enterococci), and estrogenicity, an indicator of estrogenic activity. Nutrients (orthophosphate and ammonia) and enterococci varied over time and space, while E. coli, total coliforms, turbidity, and estrogenicity were more strongly associated with local livestock grazing metrics. Turbidity was correlated with several grazing-related constituents and may be particularly useful for monitoring water quality in landscapes with livestock use. Concentrations of orthophosphate and estrogenicity were elevated at several sites relative to published health benchmarks, and their potential effects on R. pretiosa warrant further investigation. Our data provided an initial assessment of potential exposure of amphibians to grazing related constituents in western US wetlands.
Papers & Reports Density dependence and adult survival drive dynamics in two high elevation amphibian populations
Authors: A M Kissel; S Tenan; Erin Muths
Date: 2020-12-12 | Outlet: Diversity 2020, 12, 478; doi:10.3390/d12120478
Amphibian conservation has progressed from the identification of declines to mitigation, but efforts are hampered by the lack of nuanced information about the effects of environmental characteristics and stressors on mechanistic processes of population regulation. Challenges include a paucity of long-term data and scant information about the relative roles of extrinsic (e.g., weather) and intrinsic (e.g., density dependence) factors. We used a Bayesian formulation of an open population capture-recapture model and >30 years of data to examine intrinsic and extrinsic factors regulating two adult boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata) populations. We modelled population growth rate and apparent survival directly, assessed their temporal variability, and derived estimates of recruitment. Populations were relatively stable (geometric mean population growth rate >1), and regulated by negative density dependence (i.e., higher population sizes reduced population growth rate). In the smaller population, density dependence also acted on adult survival. In the larger population, higher population growth was associated with warmer autumns. Survival estimates ranged from 0.30-0.87, per-capita recruitment was <1 in most years, and mean seniority probability was >0.50, suggesting adult survival is more important to population growth than recruitment. Our analysis indicates density dependence is a primary driver of population dynamics for P. maculata adults.
Papers & Reports Water Temperature and Availability Shape the Spatial Ecology of a Hot Springs Endemic Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi)
Authors: Brian J Halstead; Patrick M Kleeman; Jonathan P Rose; Kristen J Fouts
Date: 2021-02-26 | Outlet: Herpetologica
Desert amphibians are limited to exploiting ephemeral resources and aestivating or to inhabiting scarce refuges of permanent water, such as springs. Understanding how amphibians use these resources is essential for their conservation. Dixie Valley Toads (Anaxyrus williamsi) are precinctive to a small system of cold and hot springs in the Dixie Valley, Nevada, USA. The toads have been petitioned for listing under the US Endangered Species Act, and information about how they use terrestrial and aquatic resources will help managers to conserve the toads and identify threats like geothermal energy development that might affect these toads. We used radiotelemetry to study the seasonal home ranges, movements, and habitat associations of Dixie Valley Toads in autumn 2018 and spring 2019. We found that toads were very closely associated with water in both seasons, with most observations occurring in water, especially for males in spring and all toads in the autumn. Even when found in terrestrial habitat, toads were a median distance of 4.2 m (95% credible interval = 3.3–5.3) from water; 95% of the time in spring and autumn, toads were within 14 m of water. Dixie Valley Toad habitat selection indicated a similar pattern, with selection in both spring and autumn for locations closer to water and for warmer water and substrates than at nearby available locations. In autumn, toads also avoided bare ground and terrestrial graminoids. Dixie Valley Toads selected brumation sites in, over (within dense vegetation), or near water, often near springs where water depths and temperatures are likely stable through the winter. The reliance of Dixie Valley Toads on water in spring, autumn, and during brumation suggests that alteration to historical flows and water temperatures are likely to affect the toads. Changes to the hydrothermal environment when toads are brumating could be particularly detrimental, potentially killing inactive toads.
Papers & Reports Estimating the survival of unobservable life stages for a declining frog with a complex life-history.
Authors: Jonathan P Rose; Sarah J Kupferberg; Clara A Wheeler; Patrick M Kleeman; Brian J Halstead
Date: 2021-02-15 | Outlet: Ecosphere 12(2):e03381
Demographic models enhance understanding of drivers of population growth and inform conservation efforts to prevent population declines and extinction. For species with complex life histories, however, parameterizing demographic models is challenging because some life stages can be dif?cult to study directly. Integrated population models (IPMs) empower researchers to estimate vital rates for organisms that have cryptic or widely dispersing early life stages by integrating multiple demographic data sources. For a stream-inhabiting frog(Rana boylii) that is declining through much of its range in Oregon and California, USA, we collected egg-mass counts and capture–mark–recapture data on adults from two populations in California to ?t IPMs that estimate adult abundance and the survival rate of both marked and unobserved life stages. Estimates of adult abundance based on long-term monitoring of egg-mass counts showed that study populations ?uctuated greatly inter-annually but were stable at longer timescales (i.e., decades). Adult female survival during 5–6 yr of capture–mark–recapture study periods was nearly equal in each population. Survival rate of R. boylii eggs to the subadult stage is low on average (0.002) but highly variable among years depending on post-oviposition stream ?ow. Population viability analysis showed that survival of adult and subadult life stages has the greatest proportional effect on population growth; the survival of egg and tadpole life stages, however, is more malleable by management interventions. For example, simulations showed head-starting of tadpoles, salvaging stranded egg masses, and limiting aseasonal pulsed ?ows could dramatically reduce the threat of extirpation. This study demonstrates the value of integrating multiple demographic data sources to construct models of population dynamics in species with complex life histories.
Papers & Reports Conservation genomics of the threatened western spadefoot, Spea hammondii, in urbanized southern California
Authors: K M Neal; R N Fisher; M J Mitrovich; H B Shaffer
Date: 2020-11-27 | Outlet: Journal of Heredity 2020:613-627
Populations of the western spadefoot (Spea hammondii) in southern California occur in one of the most urbanized and fragmented landscapes on the planet and have lost up to 80% of their native habitat. Orange County is one of the last strongholds for this pond-breeding amphibian in the region, and ongoing restoration efforts targeting S. hammondii have involved habitat protection and the construction of artificial breeding ponds. These efforts have successfully increased breeding activity, but genetic characterization of the populations, including estimates of effective population size and admixture between the gene pools of constructed artificial and natural ponds, has never been undertaken. Using thousands of genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms, we characterized the population structure, genetic diversity, and genetic connectivity of spadefoots in Orange County to guide ongoing and future management efforts. We identified at least 2, and possibly 3 major genetic clusters, with additional substructure within clusters indicating that individual ponds are often genetically distinct. Estimates of landscape resistance suggest that ponds on either side of the Los Angeles Basin were likely interconnected historically, but intense urban development has rendered them essentially isolated, and the resulting risk of interruption to natural metapopulation dynamics appears to be high. Resistance surfaces show that the existing artificial ponds were well-placed and connected to natural populations by low-resistance corridors. Toad samples from all ponds (natural and artificial) returned extremely low estimates of effective population size, possibly due to a bottleneck caused by a recent multi-year drought. Management efforts should focus on maintaining gene flow among natural and artificial ponds by both assisted migration and construction of new ponds to bolster the existing pond network in the region.
Papers & Reports Accommodating the role of site memory in dynamic species distribution models using detection/non-detection data
Authors: Graziella V DiRenzo; A David; R Blake; H Brent; P E Howell; H . Evan; Erin Muths
Outlet: Ecology xx:xxx-xxx
First-order dynamic occupancy models (FODOMs) are a class of state-space model in which the true state (occurrence) is observed imperfectly. An important assumption of FODOMs is that site dynamics only depend on the current state and that variations in dynamic processes are adequately captured with covariates or random effects. However, it is often difficult to measure the covariates that generate ecological data, which are often spatio-temporally correlated. Consequently, the non-independent error structure of correlated data causes underestimation of parameter uncertainty and poor ecological inference. Here, we extend the FODOM framework with a second-order Markov process to accommodate site memory when covariates are not available. Our modeling framework can be used to make reliable inference about site occupancy, colonization, extinction, turnover, and detection probabilities. We present a series of simulations to illustrate the data requirements and model performance. We then applied our modeling framework to 13 years of data from an amphibian community in southern Arizona, USA and find that site memory helps describe dynamic processes for most species. Our approach represents a valuable advance in obtaining inference on population dynamics, especially as they relate to metapopulations.
Papers & Reports The influence of species life history and distribution characteristics on species responses to habitat fragmentation in an urban landscape
Authors: S Amburgey; David AW Miller; C J Rochester; K S Delaney; S PD Riley; C S Brehme; S A Hathaway; R N Fisher
Date: 2021-01-20 | Outlet: Journal of Animal Ecology
1. Fragmentation within urbanized environments often leads to a loss of native species diversity; however, variation exists in responses among-species and among-populations within species.
2. We aimed to identify patterns in species biogeography in an urbanized landscape to understand anthropogenic effects on vertebrate communities and identify species that are more sensitive or resilient to landscape change.
3. We investigated patterns in species richness and species responses to fragmentation in southern Californian small vertebrate communities using multispecies occupancy models and determined factors associated with overall commonness and sensitivity to patch size for 45 small vertebrate species both among and within remaining non-developed patches.
4. In general, smaller patches had fewer species, with amphibian species richness being particularly sensitive to patch size effects. Mammals were generally more common, occurring both in a greater proportion of patches and a higher proportion of the sites within occupied patches. Alternatively, amphibians were generally restricted to larger patches but were more ubiquitous within smaller patches when occupied. Species range size was positively correlated with how common a species was across and within patches, even when controlling for only patches that fell within a species’ range. We found sensitivity to patch size was greater for more fecund species and depended on where the patch occurred within a species’ range. While all taxa were more likely to occur in patches in the warmer portions of their ranges, amphibians and mammals were more sensitive to fragmentation in these warmer areas as compared to the rest of their ranges. Similarly, amphibians occurred at a smaller proportion of sites within patches in drier portions of their ranges. Mammals occurred at a higher proportion of sites that were also in drier portions of their range while reptiles did not differ in their sensitivity to patch size by range position.
5. We demonstrate that taxonomy, life history, range size, and range position can predict commonness and sensitivity of species across this highly fragmented yet biodiverse landscape. The impacts of fragmentation on species communities within an urban landscape depend on scale, with differences emerging among and within species and populations.
Papers & Reports The Coyote Mountains’ Desert Snail (Sonorelix harperi carrizoensis), a Lazarus Species with the First Documentation of Live Individuals
Authors: R N Fisher; S R Fisher
Date: 2020-08 | Outlet: Bulletin Southern California Academy of Sciences 119:49-54.
The Coyote Mountain desert snail (Sonorelix harperi carrizoensis) was described in 1937 from 30 dry shells collected the previous year. We reviewed the literature and museum records and found two additional shell collections for this subspecies from the type locality one from 1958, and one from an adjacent mountain range in 1938. There is no evidence previously of any live snails being collected from the Coyote Mountains, Imperial County, California. All shell collections of S. harperi carrizoensis have the same locality data as the type series, which is Painted Gorge, Coyote Mountains except for one recorded collection of shells from the Vallecito Mountains from 1938. Using geological maps and other data sources, a potential mesic habitat was identified in the Coyote Mountains. During recent field work for salamanders at this location we detected two live specimens of S. harperi carrizoensis approximately 2 km north of its type location. This new data confirms this subspecies is still extant and has occurred at least at two sites historically in these mountains. Despite the presence of mesic habitats (i.e., mosses, liverworts and ferns) at the type locality, we found no evidence of S. harperi carrizoensis or salamanders.