Wetlands Ecology and Management

Canopy closure and amphibian diversity in forested wetlands

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Courtesy of Wetlands Ecology and Management

The crowns of trees and shrubs often overtop temporary wetlands in forested regions. By shading pond basins, canopy can dramatically change the conditions experienced by residents such as amphibians. In this study, we estimated the presence of 8 amphibian species across 17 temporary wetlands at the Yale–Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut, USA. In addition, we quantified the light environment using a grid of hemispherical canopy photographs to calculate Global Site Factor (GSF) within each wetland. Amphibian richness was low in most wetlands, and most wetlands were relatively shaded. Amphibian richness increased in lighter wetlands. This result was not confounded by relationships with wetland size. Most amphibian species tended to be absent from heavily shaded wetlands (‘open canopy specialists’). However, three species were often found in the shadiest wetlands (‘canopy generalists’). Field transplant experiments using one canopy generalist and one open canopy specialist showed that development of the generalist was less affected by wetland light levels compared with performance of the specialist. These findings suggest that canopy may be an important determinant of amphibian diversity patterns across wetlands. Further, conservation strategies dependent on universally applied, inviolate shoreline vegetation buffers may inadvertently contribute to species loss. Because species differ in their sensitivity to changes in canopy, these losses may be predictable.

Keywords: Amphibian - Buffer zone - Canopy - Community - Distribution - Experiment - Forest - Freshwater - Global site factor

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