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Factors influencing anuran wetland occupancy in an agricultural landscape

March 1, 2019

Habitat disturbance is an important cause of global amphibian declines, with especially strong effects in areas of high agricultural use. Determining the influence of site characteristics on amphibian presence and success is vital to developing effective conservation strategies. We used occupancy analysis to estimate presence of four anuran species at wetlands in northern Iowa as a function of eight environmental covariates hypothesized to affect occupancy: fish and salamander abundance, invertebrate density, aquatic vegetative cover, wetland area, atrazine concentration in water, surrounding agricultural land use, and an overall wetland health score (wetland condition index [WCI]). We surveyed 27 wetlands multiple times in 2015 and 2016. Leopard Frogs (Lithobates pipiens) and American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) were observed at 100% of the sites, Boreal Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris maculata) at 96%, and Gray Treefrogs (Hyla spp.) at 81%. Wetland site occupancy for all species in our study ranged from 0.23 (Hyla spp. tadpoles) to 0.95 (L. pipiens adults), indicating that agricultural wetlands can provide refuge or habitat for amphibians. Fish abundance, percentage of cropland cover within 500 m of the wetland, and salamander abundance were among the variables best supported by our models although their estimated effects were weak. Wetland area, atrazine concentration, vegetative cover, and WCI also influenced occupancy probability, but for only a small number of species and life stages. The direction of predicted effects varied by species and life stage. Despite only weak evidence that the environmental factors we measured influenced anuran occupancy, our results provide insights for managers seeking to understand how amphibians use landscapes modified by agriculture.

Publication Year 2019
Title Factors influencing anuran wetland occupancy in an agricultural landscape
DOI 10.1655/HERPETOLOGICA-D-18-00013.1
Authors Jennifer E. Swanson, Clay Pierce, Stephen J. Dinsmore, Kelly L. Smalling, Mark W. Vandever, Timothy W. Stewart, Erin L. Muths
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Herpetologica
Index ID 70227748
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown; Fort Collins Science Center; Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; New Jersey Water Science Center