Predictors of breeding site occupancy by amphibians in montane landscapes

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

Ecological relationships and processes vary across species’ geographic distributions, life stages and spatial, and temporal scales. Montane landscapes are characterized by low wetland densities, rugged topographies, and cold climates. Consequently, aquatic-dependent and low-vagility ectothermic species (e.g., pool-breeding amphibians) may exhibit unique ecological associations in montane landscapes. We evaluated the relative importance of breeding- and landscape-scale features associated with spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) wetland occupancy in Maine's Upper Montane-Alpine Zone ecoregion, and we determined whether models performed better when the inclusive landscape-scale covariates were estimated with topography-weighted or circular buffers. We surveyed 135 potential breeding sites during May 2013–June 2014 and evaluated environmental relationships with multi-season implicit dynamics occupancy models. Breeding site occupancy by both species was influenced solely by breeding-scale habitat features. Spotted salamander occupancy probabilities increased with previous or current beaver (Castor canadensis) presence, and models generally were better supported when the inclusive landscape-scale covariates were estimated with topography-weighted rather than circular buffers. Wood frog occupancy probabilities increased with site area and percent shallows, but neither buffer type was better supported than the other. Model rank order and support varied between buffer types, but model inferences did not. Our results suggest pool-breeding amphibian conservation in montane Maine include measures to maintain beaver populations and large wetlands with proportionally large areas of shallows ≤1-m deep. Inconsistencies between our study and previous studies substantiate the value of region-specific research for augmenting species’ conservation management plans and suggest the application of out-of-region inferences may promote ineffective conservation. 

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Predictors of breeding site occupancy by amphibians in montane landscapes
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21184
Volume 81
Issue 2
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 10 p.
First page 269
Last page 278
Country United States
State Maine
Other Geospatial Franklin County, Piscataquis County