Search Results


Papers & Reports Survival estimates for the invasive American Bullfrog
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Authors: Howell PE, Muths E, Sigafus BH, Hossack BR | Outlet: Amphibia-Reptilia
We used five years of capture mark-recapture data to estimate annual apparent survival of post-metamorphic bullfrogs in a population on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in their invaded range in Arizona, U.S.A.
Study area in southern Arizona (USA) showing water endmember location (Parker Canyon Lake; bottom right) and examples of three waterbodies with different sizes and spectral characteristics using June 2007 Landsat 5 TM (left) and September 2018 Landsat 8 OLI (right).
Study area in southern Arizona (USA) showing water endmember location (Parker Canyon Lake; bottom right) and examples of three waterbodies with different sizes and spectral characteristics using June 2007 Landsat 5 TM (left) and September 2018 Landsat 8 OLI (right).
Papers & Reports Estimating inundation of small waterbodies with sub-pixel analysis of Landsat imagery: long-term trends in surface water area and evaluation of common drought indices
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Authors: Sall I, Jarchow CJ, Sigafus BH, Eby LA, Forzley MJ, Hossack BH | Outlet: Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
Small waterbodies are numerically dominant in many landscapes and provide several important ecosystem services, but automated measurement of waterbodies smaller than a standard Landsat pixel (0.09 ha) remains challenging. To further evaluate sub-Landsat pixel techniques for estimating inundation extent of small waterbodies (basin area: 0.061.79 ha), we used a partial spectral unmixing method with matched filtering applied to September 1985–2018 Landsat 5 and 8 imagery from southern Arizona, USA. We estimated trends in modeled surface water area each September and evaluated the ability of several common drought indices to explain variation in mean water area. Our methods accurately classified waterbodies as dry or inundated (Landsat 5: 91.3%; Landsat 8: 98.9%) and modeled and digitized surface water areas were strongly correlated (R2 = 0.700.92; bias = -0.024 – -0.015 ha). Estimated surface water area was best explained by the 3-month seasonal standardized precipitation index (SPI03; July?September) and. We found a wide range of estimated relationships between drought indices (e.g., SPI vs. Palmer Drought Severity Index) and estimated water area, even for different durations of the same drought index (e. g., SPI01 vs SPI12). Mean surface area of waterbodies decreased by ~14% from September 1985 to September 2018, which matched declines in annual precipitation in the area and is consistent with broader trends of reduced inundation extent based on larger waterbodies. Estimated of surface water area and trends over time were also consistent when we limited analyses to waterbodies ? 0.04 ha or those that varied most in size (based on CV). These results emphasize the importance of understanding local systems when relying on drought indices to infer variation in past or future surface water dynamics. Several challenges remain before widespread application of sub-pixel methods is feasible, but our results provide further evidence that partial spectral unmixing with matched filtering provides reliable measures of inundation extent of small waterbodies.
Juvenile California newt ([I]Taricha torosa[/I]) from southern California.  The larval stage is very sensitive to rainfall and water availability.
Juvenile California newt (Taricha torosa) from southern California. The larval stage is very sensitive to rainfall and water availability.
USGS
Papers & Reports Amphibian responses in the aftermath of extreme climate events
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Authors: Bucciarelli G M, Clark M, Delaney K S, Riley S P D, Shaffer H B, Fisher R N, Honeycutt R L, Kats L B | Date: 2020-02-25 | Outlet: Scientific Reports 10:3409 | Format: .PDF
Climate change-induced extinctions are estimated to eliminate one in six known species by the end
of the century. One major factor that will contribute to these extinctions is extreme climatic events.
Here, we show the ecological impacts of recent record warm air temperatures and simultaneous peak
drought conditions in California. From 2008–2016, the southern populations of a wide-ranging endemic
amphibian (the California newt, Taricha torosa) showed a 20% reduction to mean body condition and
significant losses to variation in body condition linked with extreme climate deviations. However,
body condition in northern populations remained relatively unaffected during this period. Range-wide
population estimates of change to body condition under future climate change scenarios within the
next 50 years suggest that northern populations will mirror the loss of body condition recently observed
in southern populations. This change is predicated on latter 21st century climate deviations that
resemble recent conditions in Southern California. Thus, the ecological consequences of climate change
have already occurred across the warmer, drier regions of Southern California, and our results suggest
that predicted climate vulnerable regions in the more mesic northern range likely will not provide
climate refuge for numerous amphibian communities.
Papers & Reports Using Full and Partial Unmixing Algorithms to Estimate the Inundation Extent of Small, Isolated Stock Ponds in an Arid Landscape
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Authors: Jarchow CJ, Sigafus BH, Muths E, Hossack BR | Date: 2019-08 | Outlet: Wetlands
Many natural wetlands around the world have disappeared or been replaced, resulting in the dependence of many wildlife species on small, artificial earthen stock ponds. These ponds provide critical wildlife habitat, such that the accurate detection of water and assessment of inundation extent is required. We applied a full (linear spectral mixture analysis; LSMA) and partial (matched filtering; MF) spectral unmixing algorithm to a 2007 Landsat 5 and a 2014 Landsat 8 satellite image to determine the ability of a time-intensive (i.e., more spectral input; LSMA) vs. a more efficient (less spectral input; MF) spectral unmixing approach to detect and estimate surface water area of stock ponds in southern Arizona, USA and northern Sonora, Mexico. Spearman rank correlations (rs) between modeled and actual inundation areas less than a single Landsat pixel (< 900 m2) were low for both techniques (rs range = 0.22 to 0.62), but improved for inundation areas > 900 m2 (rs range = 0.34 to 0.70). Our results demonstrate that the MF approach can model ranked inundation extent of known pond locations with results comparable to or better than LSMA, but further refinement is required for estimating absolute inundation areas and mapping wetlands < 1 Landsat pixel.

Papers & Reports A statistical forecasting approach to metapopulation viability analysis
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Authors: Howell PE, Hossack BR, Muths E, Sigafus BH, Chenevert-Steffler A, Chandler RB | Date: 2020 | Outlet: Ecological Applications 2020:e02038
Conservation of at-risk species is aided by reliable forecasts of the consequences of environmental change and management actions on population viability. Forecasts from conventional population viability analysis (PVA) are made using a two-step procedure in which parameters are estimated, or elicited from expert opinion, and then plugged into a stochastic population model without accounting for parameter uncertainty. Recently-developed statistical PVAs differ because forecasts are made conditional on models that are fitted to empirical data. The statistical forecasting approach allows for uncertainty about parameters, but it has rarely been applied in metapopulation contexts where spatially-explicit inference is needed about colonization and extinction dynamics and other forms of stochasticity that influence metapopulation viability. We conducted a statistical metapopulation viability analysis (MPVA) using 11 years of data on the federally-threatened Chiricahua leopard frog to forecast responses to landscape heterogeneity, drought, environmental stochasticity, and management. We evaluated several future environmental scenarios and pond restoration options designed to reduce extinction risk. Forecasts over a 50-yr time horizon indicated that metapopulation extinction risk was <8% for all scenarios, but uncertainty was high. Without pond restoration, extinction risk is forecasted to be 5.6% (95% CI: 0?60%) by year 2060. Restoring six ponds by increasing hydroperiod reduced extinction risk to 1.0% (0 ? 11%) in year 2060. We found little evidence that drought influences metapopulation viability when managers have the ability to maintain ponds that hold water throughout the year and are free of invasive species. Our study illustrates the utility of the spatially explicit statistical forecasting approach to MPVA in conservation planning efforts.

B Stiedl
Papers & Reports Drought-mediated extinction of an arid-land amphibian: insights from a spatially explicit dynamic occupancy model
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Authors: Zylstra ER, Swann DE, Hossack BR, Muths E, Steidl RJ | Outlet: Ecological Applications 29: e01859
Understanding how natural and anthropogenic processes affect population dynamics of species with patchy distributions is critical to predicting their responses to environmental changes. Despite considerable evidence that demographic rates and dispersal patterns vary temporally in response to an array of biotic and abiotic processes, few applications of metapopulation theory have sought to explore factors that explain spatio-temporal variation in extinction or colonization rates. To facilitate exploring these factors, we extended a spatially explicit model of metapopulation dynamics to create a framework that requires only binary presence-absence data, makes few assumptions about the dispersal process, and accounts for imperfect detection. We apply this framework to 22 years of biannual survey data for lowland leopard frogs, Lithobates yavapaiensis, an amphibian that inhabits arid stream systems in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for factors that govern temporal variation in transition probabilities, as both extinction and colonization rates varied with hydrologic conditions. Specifically, local extinctions were more frequent during drought periods, particularly at sites without reliable surface water. Colonization rates increased when larval and dispersal periods were wetter than normal, which increased the probability that potential emigrants metamorphosed and reached neighboring sites. Extirpation of frogs from one watershed during a period of severe drought demonstrated the influence of site-level features, as frogs persisted only in areas where most sites held water consistently and where the amount of sediment deposited from high-elevation wildfires was low. Application of our model provided novel insights into how climate-related processes affected the distribution and population dynamics of an arid-land amphibian. The approach we describe has application to a wide array of species that inhabit patchy environments, can improve our understanding of factors that govern metapopulation dynamics, and can inform strategies for conservation of imperiled species.

D. Herasiimtschuk
Papers & Reports Twenty-nine years of population dynamics in a small-bodied montane amphibian
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Authors: Muths E, Scherer RD, Amburgey SM, Corn PS | Outlet: Ecosphere | Format: .PDF
Identifying population declines before they reach crisis proportions is imperative given the current global decline in vertebrate fauna and the associated challenges and expense of recovery. Understanding life-histories and how the environment influences demography are critical aspects of this challenge, as is determining the biological relevance of covariates that are best supported by data. We used 29 years of data on chorus frogs at two sites to estimate demographic parameters, examine life-history, assess weather-related covariates, and determine the magnitude of process variation in target parameters. Average estimates of survival probabilities were 0.51 (SE=0.04) and 0.43 (SE=0.04), and average estimates of recruitment probabilities were 0.64 (SE=0.07) and 0.44 (SE=0.04). Process variation accounted for &#61619; 76% of the total temporal variation in both parameters at one pond and in survival probability alone at the other, suggesting that the covariates in our top models were explaining predominantly process rather than sampling variation. Estimates of population growth rates indicated a declining population at one pond (i.e., negative population growth rates in 15 of 18 years) and comparisons with historical estimates suggested declines in survival probability at the other. The amount of deviance explained was low, providing little support for the influence of covariates on target parameters, despite model selection support. Synthesis and applications: This analysis illustrates the value of disentangling components of variance when assessing demographic drivers and highlights the need for adequate demographic information in assigning conservation labels.
Calling male Arroyo toad ([I]Anaxyrus californicus[/I]) from San Diego County, California.
Calling male Arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus) from San Diego County, California.
Cheryl Brehme, USGS
Papers & Reports Longevity and population age structure of the arroyo southwestern toad (Anaxyrus californicus) with drought implications
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Authors: Fisher R N, Brehme C S, Hathaway S A, Hovey T E, Warburton M L, Stokes D C | Date: 2018-05-20 | Outlet: Ecology and Evolution | Format: .PDF
The arroyo southwestern toad is a specialized and federally endangered amphibian endemic to the coastal plains and mountains of central and southern California and northwestern Baja California. It is largely unknown how long these toads live in natural systems, how their population demographics vary across occupied drainages, and how hydrology affects age structure. We used skeletochronology to estimate the ages of adult arroyo toads in seven occupied drainages with varying surface water hydrology in southern California. We processed 179 adult toads with age estimates between one and six years. Comparisons between skeletochronological ages and known ages of PIT tagged toads showed that skeletochronology likely underestimated toad age by up to two years, indicating they may live to seven or eight years, but nonetheless major patterns were evident. Arroyo toads showed sexual size dimorphism with adult females reaching a maximum size of 12mm greater than males. Population age structure also varied among the sites. Age structure at sites with seasonally predictable surface water was biased toward younger individuals, which indicated stable recruitment for these populations. In contrast, age structures at the ephemeral sites were biased toward older individuals with cohorts roughly corresponding to higher rainfall years. These populations are driven by surface water availability, a stochastic process, and are thus more unstable. Based on our estimates of toad ages, climate predictions of extreme and prolonged drought events could mean that the number of consecutive dry years could surpass the maximum life span of toads making them vulnerable to extirpation, especially in ephemeral freshwater systems. Understanding the relationship between population demographics and hydrology is essential for predicting species resilience to projected changes in weather and rainfall patterns. The arroyo toad serves as a model for understanding potential species responses to long term climatic and hydrologic changes in Mediterranean stream systems. We recommend development of adaptive management strategies to address these threats.

B. Sigafus
Papers & Reports Increasing connectivity between metapopulation ecology and landscape ecology
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Authors: Howell PE, Muths E, Hossack BR, Sigafus BH, Chandler RB | Date: 2018-02 | Outlet: Ecology 99(5), 2018, pp. 1119–1128
Abstract. Metapopulation ecology and landscape ecology aim to understand how spatial structure
influences ecological processes, yet these disciplines address the problem using fundamentally different modeling approaches. Metapopulation models describe how the spatial distribution of patches affects colonization and extinction, but often do not account for the heterogeneity in the landscape between patches. Models in landscape ecology use detailed descriptions of landscape structure, but often without considering colonization and extinction dynamics. We present a novel spatially explicit modeling framework for narrowing the divide between these disciplines to advance understanding of the effects of landscape structure on metapopulation dynamics. Unlike previous efforts, this framework allows for statistical inference on landscape resistance to colonization using empirical data. We demonstrate the approach using 11 yr of data on a threatened amphibian in a desert ecosystem. Occupancy data for Lithobates chiricahuensis (Chiricahua leopard frog) were collected on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR), Arizona, USA from 2007 to 2017 following a reintroduction in 2003. Results indicated that colonization dynamics were influenced by both patch characteristics and landscape structure. Landscape resistance increased with increasing elevation and distance to the nearest streambed. Colonization rate was also influenced by patch quality, with semi-permanent and permanent ponds contributing substantially more to the colonization of neighboring ponds relative to intermittent ponds. Ponds that only hold water intermittently also had the highest extinction rate. Our modeling framework can be widely applied to understand metapopulation dynamics in complex landscapes, particularly in systems in which the environment between habitat patches influences the colonization process.
Papers & Reports Declines revisited: long-term recovery and spatial population dynamics of tailed frog larvae after wildfire
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Authors: Hossack BR, Honeycutt RK | Outlet: Biological Conservation
Drought has fueled an increased frequency and severity of large wildfires in many ecosystems. Despite an increase in research on wildfire effects on vertebrates, the vast majority of it has focused on short-term (&lt;5 yrs) effects and there is still little information on the time scale of population recovery for species that decline in abundance after fire. In 2003, a large wildfire in Montana (USA) burned the watersheds of four of eight streams that we sampled for larval Rocky Mountain tailed frogs (Ascaphus montanus) in 2001. Surveys during 2004?2005 revealed reduced abundance of larvae in burned streams relative to unburned streams, with greater declines associated with increased fire extent. Rocky Mountain tailed frogs have low vagility and have several unusual life-history traits that could slow population recovery, including an extended larval period (4 yrs), delayed sexual maturity (6?8 yrs), and low fecundity (&lt;50 eggs/yr). To determine if abundance remained depressed since the 2003 wildfire, we repeated surveys during 2014?2015 and found relative abundance of larvae in burned and unburned streams had nearly converged to pre-fire conditions within two generations. The negative effects of burn extent on larval abundance weakened &gt;58% within 12 yrs after the fire. We also found moderate synchrony among populations in unburned streams and negative spatial autocorrelation among populations in burned streams. We suspect negative spatial autocorrelation among spatially-clustered burned streams reflected increased post-fire patchiness in resources and different rates of local recovery. Our results add to a growing body of work that suggests populations in intact ecosystems tend to be resilient to habitat changes caused by wildfire. Our results also provide important insights into recovery times of populations that have been negatively affected by severe wildfire.