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Agricultural ponds support amphibian populations

January 1, 2004

In some agricultural regions, natural wetlands are scarce, and constructed agricultural ponds may represent important alternative breeding habitats for amphibians. Properly managed, these agricultural ponds may effectively increase the total amount of breeding habitat and help to sustain populations. We studied small, constructed agricultural ponds in southeastern Minnesota to assess their value as amphibian breeding sites. Our study examined habitat factors associated with amphibian reproduction at two spatial scales: the pond and the landscape surrounding the pond. We found that small agricultural ponds in southeastern Minnesota provided breeding habitat for at least 10 species of amphibians. Species richness and multispecies reproductive success were more closely associated with characteristics of the pond (water quality, vegetation, and predators) compared with characteristics of the surrounding landscape, but individual species were associated with both pond and landscape variables. Ponds surrounded by row crops had similar species richness and reproductive success compared with natural wetlands and ponds surrounded by nongrazed pasture. Ponds used for watering livestock had elevated concentrations of phosphorus, higher turbidity, and a trend toward reduced amphibian reproductive success. Species richness was highest in small ponds, ponds with lower total nitrogen concentrations, tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) present, and lacking fish. Multispecies reproductive success was best in ponds with lower total nitrogen concentrations, less emergent vegetation, and lacking fish. Habitat factors associated with higher reproductive success varied among individual species. We conclude that small, constructed farm ponds, properly managed, may help sustain amphibian populations in landscapes where natural wetland habitat is rare. We recommend management actions such as limiting livestock access to the pond to improve water quality, reducing nitrogen input, and avoiding the introduction of fish.

Publication Year 2004
Title Agricultural ponds support amphibian populations
DOI 10.1890/02-5305
Authors M. G. Knutson, W. B. Richardson, D.M. Reineke, B. R. Gray, J.R. Parmelee, S.E. Weick
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Applications
Index ID 1003408
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center