From Satellites to Frogs: Quantifying Ecohydrological Change, Drought Mitigation, and Population Demography in Desert Meadows

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Researchers examined ecohydrological responses of drought mitigation actions, such as excavating ponds and installing earthen dams, aimed at conserving populations of the Columbia spotted frog in a semi-arid valley in Nevada.

They also used a satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to assess how mitigation might lead to changes in hydrology and vegetation, and affect frog survival and rates of recruitment. Excavated mitigation ponds were important for frog survival during drought, while earthen dams that raised the water table were critical for juvenile frogs to recruit into the adult population, particularly in meadows lacking groundwater sources. Results suggest that drought mitigation measures in these meadows can change the vigor of riparian vegetation during the dry season through ecohydrological processes, and this effect is propagated as changes in the population demography of native frogs. This work demonstrates novel ways to assess the effectiveness of drought mitigation using time series of readily available satellite imagery and organismal data. 

Pilliod, D.S., Hausner, M.B., Scherer, R.D., 2020, From satellites to frogs: Quantifying ecohydrological change, drought mitigation, and population demography in desert meadows: Science of the Total Environment, 

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Date published: November 27, 2017
Status: Active

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology Team (FRESC)

Wildlife respond to changes in their environment, some of which are dramatic and others subtle. To fully understand the factors that drive changes in populations and communities, we need better information on wildlife ecology in natural and human-altered landscapes. We conduct research and provide technical assistance to address applied questions about the ecology and conservation of wildlife...

Contacts: David S Pilliod