Habitat loss and modification have played a significant role in the decline of amphibian populations and species. Loss of wetlands, which are used as breeding sites for many amphibians, has contributed to the decline. The protection of small, isolated wetlands and core areas of associated uplands is one way in which population declines in certain species can be slowed or prevented. Nevertheless, migration distances of individuals of most amphibian species from their breeding sites are unknown. Using drift fences and pitfall traps, I studied migration distance and orientation of striped newts (Notophthalmus perstriatus) at a breeding pond in northern Florida, USA. Newts entered (immigration) and exited (emigration) the pond basin in a nonrandom fashion but no obvious effects of upland habitat were apparent. Patterns of emigration and immigration differed significantly between sexes, life-history stages, and migration events. Individuals tended to exit and enter the pond basin within the same quadrant, sometimes leaving and returning at the same point. Newts moved hundreds of meters into the sandhill uplands surrounding the pond. I found an inverse relationship between the proportion of newts migrating and distance from the pond. Nonetheless, I estimated that at least 16% of individuals breeding at the pond migrated in excess of 500 m from the pond. Thus, a core of protected upland with a radius of approximately 800 m from the pond would be needed to preserve the area used by the vast majority of individuals that breed at the pond. These data underscore the need to study upland habitat requirements for amphibians; findings for one taxon (e.g. ambystomatids) may not be applicable to others (e.g., salamandrids). Without such data, designating terrestrial core habitat to conserve aquatic-breeding amphibians will be difficult or impossible. However, without better protection of small, isolated wetlands, arguments to preserve surrounding uplands are irrelevant.
Additional publication details
Orientation and migration distances of a pond-breeding salamander (Notophthalmus perstriatus, Salamandridae)