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.
Papers & Reports Highly variable rates of survival to metamorphosis in wild boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas boreas)
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Authors: Crockett J, Bailey L, Muths E | Date: 2020-02 | Outlet: Population Ecology | Format: .PDF
Life history theory suggests that long-lived, pond-breeding amphibians should have low and highly variable early life-stage survival rates, but this theoretical expectation is often untested and the causes of variation are usually unknown. We evaluated the impact of hydroperiod, presence of a pathogen (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis [Bd]), presence of a potential predator (cutthroat trout Oncorhychus clarki stomias), and whether animals had been reintroduced into a site, on survival of early life stages of boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas boreas). We used a multi-state mark-recapture framework to estimate survival of boreal toad embryos from egg to metamorphosis at four sites over five years. We found substantial spatial and temporal variation in survival to metamorphosis and documented some evidence that monthly tadpole survival was lower in sites with Bd, and without trout, and at permanent sites. Our results support theories of amphibian life history, aid in the management of this species of conservation concern, and contribute to our knowledge of the ecology of the species. Additionally, we present methodology that allows practitioners to account for different lengths of time between sampling periods when estimating survival probabilities and which is especially applicable to organisms with distinct biological stages.
Papers & Reports Monitoring of Boreal Toads (Anaxyrus boreas) in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park: Survey design recommendations and trends in wetland occupancy and amphibian chytrid
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Authors: Chambert T, Belt J, Hossack BR | Outlet: Final report to NPS
Boreal Toads (Anaxryus boreas, previously Bufo boreas) have been monitored in and around Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (KLGO) since 2004. Because of their significant cultural and ecological importance, and due to threats of habitat change and the presence of the pathogenic chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), the surveillance of Boreal Toad populations has become a priority. We analyzed data collected by the park during 2005–2018 to assess the global trend of toads’ occupancy in KLGO. To provide insight into the likelihood that sites produce metamorphs, we also estimated survival of larvae from early in the season (June-July) to late season (July-August) at 8 core sites that were surveyed intensively during most years. In addition, we used simulations and statistical power analyses to make recommendations on how to improve the sampling design of this monitoring program.
Papers & Reports Species-specific responses to wetland mitigation among amphibians in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
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Authors: Swartz LK, Lowe WH, Muths E, Hossack BR | Date: 2020 | Outlet: Restoration Ecology 28:206-214
Habitat loss and degradation are leading causes of biodiversity declines, therefore assessing the capacity of created mitigation wetlands to replace habitat for wildlife has become a management priority. We used single season occupancy models to compare occurrence of larvae of four species of pond-breeding amphibians in wetlands created for mitigation, wetlands impacted by road construction, and unimpacted reference wetlands along a highway corridor in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, U.S.A. Created wetlands were shallow and had less aquatic vegetation and surface area than impacted and reference wetlands. Occupancy of barred tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium) and boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata) larvae was similar across wetland types, whereas boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas) occurred more often in created wetlands than reference and impacted wetlands. However, the majority of created wetlands (> 80%) dried partially or completely before amphibian metamorphosis occurred in both years of our study, resulting in heavy mortality of larvae and, we suspect, little to no recruitment. Columbia spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris), which require emergent vegetation that is not common in newly-created wetlands, occurred commonly in impacted and reference wetlands but were found in only one created wetland. Our results show that shallow created wetlands with little aquatic vegetation may be attractive breeding areas for some amphibians, but may result in high mortality and little recruitment if they fail to hold water for the entire larval period.
Papers & Reports Floodplains provide important amphibian habitat despite multiple ecological threats
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Authors: Holgerson M, Duarte A, Hayes M, Adams M, Tyson J, Douville K, Strecker A | Date: 2019-09-03 | Outlet: Ecosphere | Format: .PDF
Floodplain ponds and wetlands are productive and biodiverse ecosystems, yet they face multiple threats including altered hydrology, land use change, and non-native species. Protecting and restoring important floodplain ecosystems requires understanding how organisms use these habitats and respond to altered environmental conditions. We developed Bayesian models to evaluate occupancy of six amphibian species across 103 off-channel aquatic habitats in the Chehalis River floodplain, Washington State, USA. The basin has been altered by changes in land use, reduced river-wetland connections, and the establishment of non-native American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana = Lithobates catesbeianus) and centrarchid fishes, all of which we hypothesized could influence native amphibian occupancy. Despite potential threats, the floodplain habitats had relatively high rates of native amphibian occupancy, particularly when compared to studies from non-floodplain habitats within the species’ native ranges. The biggest challenge for native amphibians appears to be non-native centrarchid fishes, which strongly reduced occupancy of two native amphibians: the northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora) and the northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile). Emergent vegetative cover increased occupancy probability for all five native amphibian species, indicating that plant-management may offer a strategy to counter the negative effect of centrarchids by providing refuge from predation. We found that temporary and permanent hydroperiod sites supported different species, hence both should be conserved on the landscape. Lastly, human-created and natural ponds had similar amphibian occupancy patterns, suggesting that pond construction offers a viable strategy for adding habitats to the floodplain landscape. Overall, floodplain ponds and wetlands provide important amphibian habitat, and we offer management strategies that will bolster amphibian occupancy in an altered floodplain landscape.
Papers & Reports Amphibian monitoring in hardwood forests: optimizing methods for contaminant-based compensatory restorations
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Author: Kunz BK, Waddle JH, Green NS | Date: 2019-08-05 | Outlet: Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 2019:1-15
Amphibians such as frogs, toads, and salamanders provide important services in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and have been proposed as useful indicators of progress and success for ecological restoration projects. Limited guidance is available, however, on the costs and benefits of different amphibian monitoring techniques that might be applied to sites restored in compensation for contaminant injury. We used a variety of methods to document the amphibian communities present at four restored bottomland hardwood sites in Indiana, and to compare the information return and cost of each method. For one method—automated recording units—we also modeled the effect of varying levels of sampling effort on the number of species detected, using sample-based rarefaction and Bayesian nonlinear (Michaelis-Menten) mixed effects models. We detected 13 amphibian species across the restored sites, including two species of conservation concern in Indiana—northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens) and northern cricket frogs (Acris crepitans). Sites across a range of restoration ages demonstrated encouraging returns of amphibian communities. While more mature sites showed greater species richness, recently restored sites still provided important habitat for amphibians, including species of conservation concern. Among the four methods compared, amphibian rapid assessment yielded the highest number of species detected and the greatest catch per unit effort, with the lowest per-site cost. Our analysis of rarefied acoustic data found that number of nights sampled was a better predictor of observed species richness than the number of hours sampled within a night or minutes sampled within an hour. These data will assist restoration practitioners in selecting amphibian monitoring methods appropriate for their site characteristics and budget.
Papers & Reports A continuum of risk tolerance: Reintroductions of toads in the Rockies
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Authors: Muths E, Wright FB, Bailey LL | Outlet: book - Susan Walls | Format: .PDF
Success in reintroducing amphibians may be more context- than detail-dependent such that a slavish adherence to protocol may not foster success better than a more intuitive approach. We provide two reintroduction case studies for boreal toads where the approach was different, but where both resulted in gains in understanding, including first estimates of survival for boreal toads from a reintroduced population. Given the effects of disease on amphibian populations and the potential for disease to remain in a system after extirpation, there is a need to restructure reintroduction guidelines. Maintaining populations on the landscape through reintroductions provides an opportunity for the development of resistance and may facilitate species persistence into the future. But to be effective, care in understanding the context of the reintroduction and a re-envisioning of guidelines is necessary.
Papers & Reports Integrating amphibian movement studies across scales better informs conservation decisions
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Authors: Bailey LL, Muths E | Date: 2019-07 | Outlet: Biological Conservation | Format: .PDF
Numerous papers have highlighted the need to integrate amphibian research and conservation across multiple scales. Despite this, most amphibian movement studies focus on a single level of organization (e.g., local population) and a single life stage (e.g., adults) and many suggest potential conservation actions or imply that the information is useful to conservation, yet these presumptions are rarely clarified or tested. Movement studies to date provide little information to guide conservation decisions directly because they fail to integrate movement across scales with individual or population parameters (i.e., fitness metrics); this is exacerbated by a general failure to set movement studies in a probabilistic context. An integrative approach allows prediction of population or metapopulation responses to environmental changes and different management actions, thus directly informing conservation decisions and ‘moving the needle’ towards an informed application of conservation actions. To support this perspective we: 1) revisit reviews of amphibian movement to illustrate the focus on single scales and to underscore the importance of movement – at all scales – to conservation; 2) make the case that movement, breeding, and other demographic probabilities are intertwined and studies executed at different temporal and spatial scales can aid in understanding species’ responses to varying environmental and/or management conditions; 3) identify limitations of existing movement-related research to predict conservation action outcomes and inform decision-making; and 4) highlight under-utilized quantitative approaches that facilitate research that either connects movement to fitness metrics (individual-level studies) or estimates population and metapopulation vital rates in addition to, or associated with, movement probabilities.
Papers & Reports A three-pipe problem: dealing with complexity to halt amphibian declines
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Authors: Converse S, Grant EHC | Outlet: Biological Conservation
Natural resource managers are increasingly faced with threats to managed ecosystems that are largely outside of their control. Examples include land development, climate change, invasive species, and emerging infectious diseases. All of these are characterized by large uncertainties in timing, magnitude, and effects on species. In many cases, the conservation of species will only be possible through concerted action on the limited elements of the system that managers can control. However, before an action is taken, a manager must decide how to act, which is ? if done well ? not easy. In addition to dealing with uncertainty, managers must balance multiple potentially competing objectives, often in cases when the management actions available to them are limited. Guidance in making these types of challenging decisions can be found in the practice known as decision analysis. We demonstrate how using a decision-analytic approach to frame decisions can help identify and address impediments to improved conservation decision making. We demonstrate the application of decision analysis to two high-elevation amphibian species. An inadequate focus on the decision-making process, and an assumption that scientific information is adequate to solve conservation problems, must be overcome to advance the conservation of amphibians and other highly threatened taxa.