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Principles for Management of Aquatic-Breeding Amphibians

Raymond D. Semlitsch
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 64, No. 3 (Jul., 2000), pp. 615-631
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3802732
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3802732
Page Count: 17
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Principles for Management of Aquatic-Breeding Amphibians
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Abstract

Coordinated efforts by ecologists and natural resource managers are necessary to balance the conservation of biological diversity with the potential for sustained economic development. Because some amphibians have suffered world-wide declines during the last 20 years, it is important to consider biologically based management strategies that will preserve local and regional populations. This paper provides a brief overview of potential threats to local and regional populations, the state of knowledge on population and landscape processes, and the critical elements needed for an effective management plan for amphibians. Local population dynamics and ecological connectivity of amphibian metapopulations must be considered in effective management plans. There are 3 critical factors to consider in a management plan (1) the number or density of individuals dispersing from individual wetlands, (2) the diversity of wetlands with regard to hydroperiod, and (3) the probability of dispersal among adjacent wetlands or the rescue and recolonization of local populations. Wetland losses reduce the total number of sites where pond-breeding amphibians can reproduce and recruit juveniles into the breeding population. Loss of small, temporary wetlands (<4.0 ha) may be especially harmful to amphibians because of their abundance and high species diversity. Alteration of wetlands, particularly hydrologic cycles, can severely impair completion of larval metamorphosis through either early pond drying (if hydroperiod is shortened) or through increased predation (if hydroperiod is lengthened or connections made with fish-infested lakes, rivers, or canals). Wetland loss also increases the distance between neighboring wetlands that is critical to metapopulation source-sink processes. Reduction in wetland density reduces the probablity that populations will be rescued from extinction by nearby source populations. Local populations cannot be considered independent of source-sink processes that connect wetlands at the landscape or regional level. Further, the fragmentation of natural habitats from timber harvesting, agriculture, roads, drainage canals, or urban development impedes or prevents dispersal and decreases the probability of wetland recolonization. If our goal is to maintain or enhance present levels of amphibian diversity, then resource managers must incorporate critical elements into plans that protect population and landscape processes thereby maintaining viable populations and communities of amphibians.

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