Wetlands Ecology and Management

The relative importance of wetland size and hydroperiod for amphibians in southern New Hampshire, USA

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Courtesy of Wetlands Ecology and Management

Abstract 
In the United States, the regulatory approach to wetland protection has a traditional focus on size as a primary criterion, with large wetlands gaining significantly more protection. Small, isolated wetlands have received less protection; however, these wetlands play a significant role in the maintenance of biodiversity of many taxonomic groups, including amphibians. An important question for directing conservation and management efforts for amphibians is whether size is a useful criterion for regulatory decisions. Because hydroperiod has an important influence on amphibian composition in wetlands, I conducted a study to examine the relative influence of wetland size and hydroperiod on amphibian occurrence. I sampled 103 wetlands in southern New Hampshire in 1998 and 1999 using dipnet sampling to document the presence of larval amphibians. Wetlands were placed into one of three hydroperiod categories; short (<4 months), intermediate (4–11 months), or long (permanent) based on field observations of drying pattern. Wetland size was determined from digitized national wetland inventory (NWI) maps (most wetlands) or measured in the field. I examined patterns of amphibian species richness and individual species occurrence using generalized linear models. Wetland size ranged from 0.01 to 3.27 ha. Overall, species richness was significantly influenced by hydroperiod (χ2 = 18.6, p <0.001), but not size (χ2 = 1.4, p = 0.24). Examination within hydroperiod categories revealed several significant relationships with wetland size. Species richness was related to wetland size in wetlands with short and intermediate hydroperiods, but not wetlands with long hydroperiods. Wetland size does not appear to be a useful sole criterion for determining wetland functional value for amphibians; assessments of functions of seasonally inundated wetlands for amphibians would benefit from examination of hydroperiod.

Keywords: Amphibians - Hydroperiod - Hydrological gradient - New Hampshire - Wetland size

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