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Terrestrial Distribution of Salamanders around an Isolated Wetland

David Scott, Dean Croshaw, Mark Komoroski, and Philip Dixon


Abstract: Terrestrial habitats surrounding isolated wetlands are a critical resource for many pond-breeding amphibian species, yet few studies have examined the terrestrial distribution of post-metamorphic juveniles and adults. We used an encircling drift fence at a breeding pond in conjunction with partial fences at 90, 172, and 332 m from the wetland to estimate the terrestrial distribution of adult marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum; four breeding seasons) and mole salamanders (A. talpoideum; two seasons), as well as the dispersion of newly metamorphosed A. opacum (one summer). For newly metamorphosed A. opacum, 79% emigrated <90 m from the wetland, and 8% moved beyond 172 m; movement distance was unrelated to body size. Distribution of adult A. opacum varied among years, with an average of 28% (range 2331%) occurring beyond 172 m in all years. Averaged across two years, 51% of adult A. talpoideum occurred beyond 172 m. Lognormal models provided a good fit to both the juvenile and adult ambystomatid distributions, and parameters differed between age classes, sexes, species, and years within species. For adult A. opacum a buffer radius of 300 m or 340 m, depending on the year, is estimated to include 95% of adults; for A. talpoideum the estimate is 464 m or 501 m. A reanalysis of distribution data for seven ambystomatid species shows that a previous estimate of a 164-m radius to protect 95% of a population underestimates the needed buffer radius by 185 m. Because our study wetland requires a nearly 500 m wide radius to protect 95% of its ambystomatid adults, preservation of similar communities may require much more surrounding terrestrial habitat than previously thought.

aerial with location of drift fences

Scott, DE, Komoroski MJ, Croshaw DA, and Dixon PM. 2013. Terrestrial distribution of pond-breeding salamanders around an isolated wetland. Ecology 94:2537-2546. (Download PDF)


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This work was partially supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-FC09-07SR22506 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation.

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