, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 303-314
Date: 01 Oct 2005

Energy flow and subsidies associated with the complex life cycle of ambystomatid salamanders in ponds and adjacent forest in southern Illinois

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Breeding adults and metamorphosing larval amphibians transfer energy between freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems during seasonal migrations and emergences, although rarely has this been quantified. We intensively sampled ambystomatid salamander assemblages (Ambystoma opacum,A. maculatum, and A. tigrinum) in five forested ponds in southern Illinois to quantify energy flow associated with egg deposition, larval production, and emergence of metamorphosed larvae. Oviposition by female salamanders added 7.0–761.4 g ash-free dry mass (AFDM) year−1 to ponds (up to 5.5 g AFDM m−2 year−1). Larval production ranged from 0.4 to 7.4 g AFDM m−2 year−1 among populations in three ponds that did not dry during larval development, with as much as 7.9 g AFDM m−2 year−1 produced by an entire assemblage. Mean larval biomass during cohort production intervals in these three ponds ranged from 0.1 to 2.3 g AFDM m−2 and annual P/B (production/biomass) ranged from 4 to 21 for individual taxa. Emergent biomass averaged 10% (range=2–35%) of larval production; larval mortality within ponds accounted for the difference. Hydroperiod and intraguild predation limited larval production in some ponds, but emerging metamorphs exported an average of 70.0±33.9 g AFDM year−1 (range=21.0–135.2 g AFDM year−1) from ponds to surrounding forest. For the three ponds where larvae survived to metamorphosis, salamander assemblages provided an average net flux of 349.5±140.8 g AFDM year−1 into pond habitats. Among all ponds, net flux into ponds was highest for the largest pond and decreased for smaller ponds with higher perimeter to surface area ratios (r 2 =0.94, P<0.05, n=5). These results are important in understanding the multiple functional roles of salamanders and the impact of amphibian population declines on ecosystems.

Communicated by Joel Trexler