Understanding the relationship between climate-driven habitat conditions and survival is key to preserving biodiversity in the face of rapid climate change. Hydroperiod—the length of time water is in a wetland—is a critical limiting habitat variable for amphibians as larvae must metamorphose before ponds dry. Changes in precipitation and temperature patterns are affecting hydroperiod globally, but the impact of these changes on amphibian persistence is poorly understood. We studied the responses of Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata) tadpoles to simulated hydroperiods (i.e., water level reductions) in the laboratory using individuals collected from ponds spanning a range of natural hydroperiods (Colorado Front Range, USA). To assess the effects of experimental hydroperiod reduction, we measured mortality, time to metamorphosis, and size at metamorphosis. We found that tadpoles grew at rates reflecting the hydroperiods of their native ponds, regardless of experimental treatment. Tadpoles from permanent ponds metamorphosed faster than those from ephemeral ponds across all experimental treatments, a pattern which may represent a predation selection gradient or countergradient variation in developmental rates. Size at metamorphosis did not vary across experimental treatments. Mortality was low overall but varied with pond of origin. Our results suggest that adaptation to local hydroperiod and/or predation and temperature conditions is important in P. maculata. Moreover, the lack of a plastic response to reduced hydroperiods suggests that P. maculata may not be able to metamorphose quickly enough to escape drying ponds. These results have important implications for amphibian persistence in ponds predicted to dry more quickly due to rapid climate change.
Additional publication details
Effects of hydroperiod duration on survival, developmental rate, and size at metamorphosis in boreal chorus frog tadpoles (Pseudacris maculata)