, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 495-509
Date: 18 Apr 2010

The potential impact of simulated ground-water withdrawals on the oviposition, larval development, and metamorphosis of pond-breeding frogs

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Wetland hydroperiod is a key factor for the reproductive success of pond-breeding amphibians. Ground-water withdrawals may cause intermittent ponds to dry prematurely, potentially affecting amphibian development. In three intermittent ponds, we monitored hydrology and tracked oviposition, larval development, and metamorphosis for three frog species that represented a range of breeding phenologies. The three species were the southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), and Pine Barrens treefrog (Hyla andersonii). We simulated ground-water withdrawals by subtracting from 5 to 50 cm (in 5-cm increments) from the measured water-depth values at the ponds over a short-term (2-year) period and a long-term (10-year) period to estimate the potential impact of hydroperiod alterations on frog development. Short-term simulations indicated that 5 and 10 cm water-depth reductions would have resulted in little or no impact to hydroperiod or larval development and metamorphosis of any of the species. Noticeable impacts were estimated to occur for reductions ≥15 cm. Long-term simulations showed that impacts to the appearance of the first pre-metamorphs and metamorphs would have occurred at reductions ≥10 cm and impacts to initial egg deposition would have occurred at reductions ≥20 cm. For all simulations, successively greater reductions would have caused increasing impacts that varied by species and pond, with the 50-cm reductions shortening hydroperiods enough to practically eliminate the possibility of larval development and metamorphosis for all three species. Compared to the spring peeper and southern leopard frog, the estimated impacts of the simulations on the various life stages were the greatest for the Pine Barrens treefrog.