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Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

ARMI » Topics » Water


Pesticide lab.
K. Jones (USGS) extracting a water sample for pesticide analysis at Pesticide Fate Research Laboratory. Photo by: R. Todd.

The collaborative design which joins wildlife biologists and hydrologists enables ARMI to ask the kinds of questions it does about the environmental variables that affect amphibians in a truly integrated manner. Understanding how water quality, quantity, or timing affects amphibians is a critical component of ARMI research.

A hydrologist is associated with each ARMI region and works with the ARMI PI to develop and implement research and monitoring projects. These collaborations enable ARMI to ask questions about how water quality (e.g., nutrients, agro-chemicals, acidification), water budgets (e.g., ground and surface water models), storm surge impacts, or other hydrologic conditions can affect amphibian life cycles, disease transport, or habitat quality.


Hydrologic Investigations
USGS Toxics Substances Hydrology program

ARMI Products on Water

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This is an ARMI Product. Identifying small depressional wetlands and using a topographic position index to infer hydroperiod regimes for pond-breeding amphibians
Authors: Riley J, Calhoun D, Barichivich WB, Walls SC | Date: 2016-12-01
Small, seasonal pools and temporary ponds (<4.0ha) are the most numerous and biologically diverse wetlands in many natural landscapes. Thus, accurate determination of their numbers and spatial characteristics is beneficial for conservation and management of biodiversity associated with these freshwater systems. We examined the utility of a topographic position index (TPI) landscape classification to identify and classify depressional wetlands. We also assessed relationships between topographic characteristics and ponded duration of known wetlands to allow hydrological characteristics to be extended to non-monitored locations. Our results indicate that this approach was successful at identifying wetlands, but did have higher errors of commission (10%) than omission (5%). Additionally, the TPI procedure provided a reasonable means to correlate general ponded duration characteristics (long/short) with wetland topography. Although results varied by hydrologic class, permanent/long ponded duration wetlands were more often classified correctly (80%) than were short ponded duration wetlands (67%). However, classification results were improved to 100% and 75% for permanent/long and short ponded duration wetlands, respectively, by removing wetlands occurring on an abrupt marine terrace that erroneously inflated pond topographic characteristics. Our study presents an approach for evaluating wetland suitability for species or guilds that are associated with key habitat characteristics, such as hydroperiod.

This is an ARMI Product. Amphibian dynamics in constructed ponds on a wildlife refuge: developing expected responses to hydrological restoration
Author: Hossack BR | Date: 2016 | Outlet: Hydrobiologia
Management actions are based upon predictable responses. To form expected responses to restoration actions, I estimated habitat relationships and trends (2002‒2015) for four pond-breeding amphibians on a wildlife refuge (Montana, USA) where changes to restore historical hydrology to the system greatly expanded (≥8 times) the flooded area of the primary breeding site for western toads (Anaxyrus boreas). Additional restoration actions are planned for the near future, including removing ponds that provide amphibian habitat. Multi-season occupancy models based on data from 15 ponds sampled during 7 years revealed that the number of breeding subpopulations increased modestly for Columbia spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris) and was stationary for long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum) and Pacific treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla). For these three species, pond depth was the characteristic that was associated most frequently with occupancy or changes in colonization and extinction. In contrast, a large decrease in colonization by western toads explained the decline from eight occupied ponds in 2002 to two ponds in 2015. This decline occurred despite an increase in wetland area and the colonization of a newly-created pond. These changes highlight the challenges of managing for multiple species and how management responses can be unpredictable, possibly reducing the efficacy of targeted actions.

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This is an ARMI Product. Potential Interactions Among Disease, Pesticides, Water Quality and Adjacent Land Cover in Amphibian Habitats in the United States
Authors: Battaglin W, Smalling K, Anderson C, Calhoun D, Chestnut T, Muths E | Date: 2016-05-24 | Outlet: Science of the Total Environment 320-332
To investigate interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality and adjacent land cover we collected samples of water, sediment, and frog tissue from 21 sites in 7 States in the United States (US) representing a variety of amphibian habitats. All samples were analyzed for > 90 pesticides and pesticide degradates, and water and frogs were screened for the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) using molecular methods. Pesticides and pesticide degradates were detected frequently in frog breeding habitats (water and sediment) as well as in frog tissue. Fungicides occurred more frequently in water, sediment, and tissue than was expected based upon their limited use relative to herbicides or insecticides. Pesticide occurrence in water or sediment was not a strong predictor of occurrence in tissue, but pesticide concentrations in tissue were correlated positively to agricultural and urban land, and negatively to forested land in 2-kilometer buffers around the sites. Bd was detected in water at 45% of sites, and on 34% of swabbed frogs. Bd detections in water were not associated with differences in land use around sites, but sites with detections had colder water. Frogs that tested positive for Bd were associated with sites that had higher total fungicide concentrations in water and sediment, but lower insecticide concentrations in sediments relative to frogs that were Bd negative. Bd concentrations on frog swabs were positively correlated to dissolved organic carbon, and total nitrogen and phosphorus, and negatively correlated to pH and water temperature.
Data were collected from a range of locations and amphibian habitats and represent some of the first field-collected information aimed at understanding the interactions between pesticides, land use, and amphibian disease. These interactions are of particular interest to conservation efforts as many amphibians live in altered habitats and may depend on wetlands embedded in these landscapes to survive.

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