Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Hurricane storm surge and amphibian communities in coastal wetlands of northwestern Florida

January 1, 2010

Isolated wetlands in the Southeastern United States are dynamic habitats subject to fluctuating environmental conditions. Wetlands located near marine environments are subject to alterations in water chemistry due to storm surge during hurricanes. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effect of storm surge overwash on wetland amphibian communities. Thirty-two wetlands in northwestern Florida were sampled over a 45-month period to assess amphibian species richness and water chemistry. During this study, seven wetlands were overwashed by storm surge from Hurricane Dennis which made landfall 10 July 2005 in the Florida panhandle. This event allowed us to evaluate the effect of storm surge overwash on water chemistry and amphibian communities of the wetlands. Specific conductance across all wetlands was low pre-storm (<100 μS/cm), but increased post-storm at the overwashed wetlands (x¯">x¯x¯ = 7,613 μS/cm). Increased specific conductance was strongly correlated with increases in chloride concentrations. Amphibian species richness showed no correlation with specific conductance. One month post-storm we observed slightly fewer species in overwashed compared with non-overwashed wetlands, but this trend did not continue in 2006. More species were detected across all wetlands pre-storm, but there was no difference between overwashed and non-overwashed wetlands when considering all amphibian species or adult anurans and larval anurans separately. Amphibian species richness did not appear to be correlated with pH or presence of fish although the amphibian community composition differed between wetlands with and without fish. Our results suggest that amphibian communities in wetlands in the southeastern United States adjacent to marine habitats are resistant to the effects of storm surge overwash.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2010
Title Hurricane storm surge and amphibian communities in coastal wetlands of northwestern Florida
DOI 10.1007/s11273-010-9185-z
Authors Margaret S. Gunzburger, William B. Hughes, William J. Barichivich, Jennifer S. Staiger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands Ecology and Management
Series Number
Index ID 70037590
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program