We used a large forested preserve (Olympic National Park, USA) to examine the habitat associations of a unique and environmentally sensitive stream amphibian fauna: Ascaphus truei Stegneger, Rhyacotriton olympicus (Gaige) and Dicamptodon copei Nussbaum. We quantified the relative abundance of stream amphibians and compared them to physical, topographic, climatic and landscape variables. All three species were associated with the south-west to north-east climate gradient, tending to be most abundant in the south-west. Although a habitat generalist relative to the other two species, Dicamptodon copei was absent from the north-eastern portion of the park. Ascaphus truei and Rhyacotriton olympicus were both associated with coarse substrates and steep gradients. Unlike studies in harvested forests, all stream amphibians were common in waters with unconsolidated surface geology (e.g. marine sediments that erode easily). Studies of ecological preserves can provide an important baseline for evaluating species associations with environmental gradients and can reveal patterns not evident in more disturbed landscapes.
Additional publication details
The endemic headwater stream amphibians of the American Northwest: Associations with environmental gradients in a large forested preserve