AMPHIBIAN RESPONSE TO A LARGE-SCALE HABITAT RESTORATION IN THE PRAIRIE POTHOLE REGION
Keywords:Ambystoma tigrinum, American Bullfrog, Eastern Tiger Salamander, Lithobates catesbeianus, Lithobates pipiens, Northern Leopard Frog
Over the next half-century, scientists anticipate that nearly one third of the currently recognized 7,450 amphibian species will become extinct. Many organizations have responded to the challenge of conserving amphibian biodiversity, some indirectly. Under the auspices of the Iowa Great Lakes Management Plan, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources, and their partners have been implementing habitat restoration efforts designed to protect water quality, provide recreational opportunities, and benefit wildlife at the regional level. With this program, over 130 wetlands have been created in the past 30 years on recently purchased public lands—one of the largest wetland restoration projects conducted in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains. While amphibians were not the main target of these restorations, we show that in response, 121 new breeding populations of native Northern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates pipiens; n = 80) and Eastern Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum; n = 41) have been established; in addition, we found 19 populations of non-native American Bullfrogs (L. catesbeianus). Using the program PRESENCE, we show that leopard frog occupancy was greatest in newer (<18 years old), intermediate-sized wetlands, and that tiger salamander occupancy was greatest in small wetlands without fish and larval bullfrogs. These data imply that because native amphibians responded positively to these newly established wetlands, habitat availability has likely been a factor in limiting population numbers. Further, these data suggest the presence of fishes and introduced bullfrogs interferes with the ability of tiger salamanders to colonize restored wetlands.
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