Comparing amphibian habitat quality and functional success among natural, restored, and created vernal pools

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Megan Rothenberger , Alison Baranovic , Mariuxi K. Vera

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We performed a multiyear monitoring study to compare amphibian habitat quality among four natural, four restored, and six created pools in the same area. We used successful reproduction and metamorphosis of two vernal pool indicator species, the wood frog and spotted salamander, to represent desired outcomes. Ordination techniques were used to identify the aspects of habitat quality that were most correlated with desired outcomes. Although many previous studies indicate that restored and created pools rarely replace function lost in the destruction of natural pools, our results demonstrate that properly restored or created pools can match the value and function of nearby natural pools when certain aspects of habitat quality are considered. Vernal pool hydroperiod, volume, and depth were the most important abiotic filters constraining species composition, while predator and arthropod abundance were the biotic parameters most correlated with survival of indicator species. Large (>50 m3 ), deep (≥30 cm), short-cycle pools (12-20 weeks) had increased food availability, fewer predators, and greater reproductive success of indicator amphibians. We also documented a 96% decrease in wood frog survival rates in a semi-permanent, natural pool following a 41% decrease in overhead canopy cover and an increase in green frog abundance. At the same time, wood frog reproductive success increased in nearby restored pools with lower predator abundance, indicating that conserving and restoring landscapes with multiple vernal pools can facilitate dispersal of breeding amphibians and their prey species and mitigate overall population losses in changing landscapes.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program