The Land-use Effects on Amphibian Populations study, or LEAP, is a multi-region, collaborative project involving researchers at several universities. The LEAP study is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is being conducted at study sites in Maine, Missouri, and South Carolina. This website is dedicated to the portion of the study being conducted in South Carolina by researchers at The University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.
The focus of our research is to understand how population dynamics of aquatic-breeding amphibians are altered by land-use practices that degrade and fragment natural habitats. Most amphibian biologists agree that the primary threat to the long-term viability of amphibian populations is the loss or degradation of suitable habitat due to human activities. Habitat loss divides or fragments once-continuous natural habitats into smaller pieces that are often separated by areas that cannot sustain viable species populations. A central tenet of conservation biology is that connectivity among fragments of habitat and interactions with adjacent habitats are the keys to understanding the impacts of fragmentation on population dynamics, risk of extinction, and maintenance of biodiversity.
By conducting a manipulative experiment with proper replicates and controls, we will be able to determine the effects of major land-use practices (specifically forest management practices) on the demographic and behavioral traits of amphibians known to influence population persistence. The experimental nature and replication of treatments and experiments at both local and regional scales provide an unprecedented opportunity to identify major factors affecting the persistence of amphibian populations, such as differences in life history among salamanders, frogs, and toads.
Because recent research is revealing the extent and importance of upland habitat use by amphibians, this study will focus on the responses of terrestrial life stages of pond-breeding amphibians to upland habitat alteration. We will use a combination of mark-recapture studies, field enclosures, radiotelemetry and other techniques to estimate the demographic parameters (e.g., survival, reproductive success) underlying population dynamics and to observe amphibians during their migrations in and out of the wetlands. Data from these studies will be used to develop spatially-structured simulation models to test the responses of different species to various forest management practices at larger spatial and temporal scales. Ultimately, our goal is to provide pragmatic information to aid in efforts to balance conservation of biological diversity with sustainable land-use practices.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0242874. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.