Amphibian populations are known, or thought to be, declining worldwide. Although protected natural areas may act as reservoirs of biological integrity and serve as benchmarks for comparison with unprotected areas, they are not immune from population declines and extinctions and should be monitored. Unfortunately, identifying survey sites and performing long-term fieldwork within such (often remote) areas involves a special set of problems. We used the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) Database to identify, a priori, potential habitat for aquatic-breeding amphibians on North and South Manitou Islands, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, and compared the results to those obtained using National Wetland Inventory (NWI) data. The SSURGO approach identified more target sites for surveys than the NWI approach, and it identified more small and ephemeral wetlands. Field surveys used a combination of daytime call surveys, night-time call surveys, and perimeter surveys. We found that sites that would not have been identified with NWI data often contained amphibians and, in one case, contained wetland-breeding species that would not have been found using NWI data. Our technique allows for easy a priori identification of numerous survey sites that might not be identified using other sources of spatial information. We recognize, however, that the most effective site identification and survey techniques will likely use a combination of methods in addition to those described here.
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Improving the design of amphibian surveys using soil data: A case study in two wilderness areas