Wetlands Ecology and Management

Habitat associations of pool-breeding amphibians in eastern Massachusetts, USA

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Courtesy of Wetlands Ecology and Management

There is a pressing need to develop a sound conservation strategy for pool-breeding amphibians, which includes gaining a better understanding of the habitat and landscape-scale characteristics associated with populations. To investigate relationships between amphibian species richness and characteristics of breeding pools and surrounding landscapes, we surveyed 85 pools in eastern Massachusetts (USA) in 1996 and 1997. A total of 11 species was detected, with most pools having 2–5 species. Pools were typically small, 77.6% were <0.2 ha, but most pools (72%) had hydroperiods that persisted at least into August in most years. Based on linear regression analyses, species richness was positively associated with three within-pool variables (pool surface area, hydroperiod, and the amount of emergent vegetation), and a landscape-level variable (presence of another breeding pool within 1 km), while one within-pool variable (tree canopy cover) exhibited a significant negative association with species richness. These within-pool habitat variables and connectivity to other breeding pools are important characteristics to consider when attempting to identify breeding sites that could provide core habitat in conservation reserves designed for the conservation of pool-breeding amphibian species richness. Conservation reserves for pool-breeding amphibian populations should include pool complexes functioning as habitat for metapopulations. Core pool habitats within such reserves should be large (0.5–1.0 ha), with seasonal hydroperiods that persist into August or that dry in some years, and with sufficient emergent vegetation to provide diverse microhabitats and refugia.

Keywords: Amphibian breeding habitat - Amphibian conservation - Pool-breeding amphibians - Species richness - Vernal pool

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