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Monitoring and Population Ecology


Shenandoah
K. Cecala (ARMI) sampling a stream in Shenandoah NP for salamanders. Photo by: E. Grant.

Advances in technology (e.g., PIT tags) have allowed scientists to individually mark more types of species than ever before, and concurrent developments in biometrics have allowed scientists to ask more types of questions about animal populations under more circumstances. Some of these developments have been particularly useful when estimating parameters about amphibians, a group that can be difficult to sample (e.g., multiple life stages, small size, difficult to mark, high juvenile mortality).

These developments in marking and estimation have allowed scientists to ask specific questions about the effects of potential stressors or beneficial management actions on amphibian populations, and quantify these responses.

ARMI Products on Monitoring and Population Ecology

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This is an ARMI Product. Multi-year data from satellite- and ground-based sensors show details and scale matter in assessing climate's effects on wetland surface water, amphibians, and landscape conditions
Authors: Sadinski W, Gallant AL, Roth M, Brown J, Senay G, Brininger W, Jones PM, Stoker J | Date: 2018-09-07 | Outlet: PLoS ONE 13(9): e0201951 | Format: URL
Long-term, interdisciplinary studies of relations between climate and ecological conditions on wetland-upland landscapes have been lacking, especially studies integrated across scales meaningful for adaptive resource management. We collected data in situ at individual wetlands, and via satellite for surrounding 4-km2 landscape blocks, to assess relations between annual weather dynamics, snow duration, phenology, wetland surface-water availability, amphibian presence and calling activity, greenness, and evapotranspiration in four U.S. conservation areas from 2008 to 2012. Amid recent decades of relatively warm growing seasons, 2012 and 2010 were the first and second warmest seasons, respectively, dating back to 1895. Accordingly, we observed the earliest starts of springtime biological activity during those two years. In all years, early-season amphibians first called soon after daily mean air temperatures were ? 0°C and snow had mostly melted. Similarly, satellite-based indicators suggested seasonal leaf-out happened soon after snowmelt and temperature thresholds for plant growth had occurred. Daily fluctuations in weather and water levels were related to amphibian calling activity, including decoupling the timing of the onset of calling at the start of season from the onset of calling events later in the season. Within-season variation in temperature and precipitation also was related to vegetation greenness and evapotranspiration, but more at monthly and seasonal scales. Wetland water levels were moderately to strongly associated with precipitation and early or intermittent wetland drying likely reduced amphibian reproduction success in some years, even though Pseudacris crucifer occupied sites at consistently high levels. Notably, satellite-based indicators of landscape water availability did not suggest such consequential, intra-seasonal variability in wetland surface-water availability. Our cross-disciplinary data show how temperature and precipitation interacted to affect key ecological relations and outcomes on our study landscapes. These results demonstrate the value of multi-year studies and the importance of scale for understanding actual climate-related effects in these areas.

B. Sigafus  
This is an ARMI Product. Quantifying Climate Sensitivity and Climate Driven Change in North American Amphibian Communities
Authors: Miller DAW, Grant EHC, Muths E, Amburgey SM, Adams MJ, Joseph MB, Waddle JH, Johnson PTJ, Ryan ME, Schmidt BR, Calhoun DL, Davis CL, Fisher RN, Green DM, Hossack BR, Rittenhouse TAG, Walls SC, Bailey LL, Cruickshank SS, Fellers GM, Gorman TA, Haas CA, Hughson W, Pilliod DS, Pric | Date: 2018-08 | Outlet: Nature Communications
We quantified the response of amphibian communities to climatic variability across the United States and Canada using more than 500,000 observations for 81 species across 86 study areas. We estimated the relationships between annual variation in climate variables and local colonization and persistence probabilities across more than 5000 surveyed sites. This allowed us to estimate sensitivity to change in five climate variables. Climate sensitivity differs greatly among eco-regions and depends on local climate, species life-history, and phylogeny. Local species richness was especially sensitive to changes in water availability during breeding and changes in winter temperature. These results allowed us to ask whether changing climate explains strong overall rates of decline in species richness observed in our data set. We found that recent change in the climate variables we measured does not explain why North American amphibian richness is rapidly declining, but does explain why some populations decline faster than others. 

Robert Fisher USGS  
This is an ARMI Product. Prioritizing conserved areas threatened by wildfire for monitoring and management
Authors: Tracey JA, Rochester CJ, Hathaway SA, Preston KL, Syphard AD, Vandergast AG, Diffendorfer JE, Franklin J, MacKenzie JB, Oberbauer TA, Tremor S, Winchell C, Fisher RN | Date: 2018-09-07 | Outlet: PLoS ONE | Format: .PDF
In many parts of the world, the combined effects of habitat fragmentation and altered disturbance regimes pose a significant threat to biodiversity. This is particularly true in Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTEs), which tend to be fire-prone, species rich, and heavily impacted by human land use. Given the spatial complexity of overlapping threats and species? vulnerability along with limited conservation budgets, methods are needed for prioritizing areas for monitoring and management in these regions. We developed a multi-criteria Pareto ranking methodology for prioritizing spatial units for conservation and applied it to fire threat, habitat fragmentation threat, species richness, and genetic biodiversity criteria in San Diego County, California, USA. We summarized the criteria and Pareto ranking results (from west to east) within the maritime, coastal, transitional, inland climate zones within San Diego County. Fire threat increased from the maritime zone eastward to the transitional zone, then decreased in the mountainous inland climate zone. Number of fires and fire return interval departure were strongly negatively correlated. Fragmentation threats, particularly road density and development density, were highest in the maritime climate zone and declined as we moved eastward and were positively correlated. Species richness criteria showed distributions among climate zones similar to that of the fire threat variables. When using species richness and fire threat criteria, most lower-ranked (higher conservation priority) units occurred in the coastal and transitional zones. When considering genetic biodiversity, lower-ranked units occurred more often in the mountainous inland zone. With Pareto ranking, there is no need to select criteria weights as part of the decision-making process. However, negative correlations and larger numbers of criteria can result in more units assigned to the same rank. Pareto ranking is broadly applicable and can be used as a standalone decision analysis method or in conjunction with other methods.