Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 651-663

First online:

Hurricane storm surge and amphibian communities in coastal wetlands of northwestern Florida

  • Margaret S. GunzburgerAffiliated withUnited States Geological Survey, Southeast Ecological Science CenterNokuse Plantation Email author 
  • , William B. HughesAffiliated withUnited States Geological Survey
  • , William J. BarichivichAffiliated withUnited States Geological Survey, Southeast Ecological Science Center
  • , Jennifer S. StaigerAffiliated withUnited States Geological Survey, Southeast Ecological Science Center

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Isolated wetlands in the Southeastern United States are dynamic habitats subject to fluctuating environmental conditions. Wetlands located near marine environments are subject to alterations in water chemistry due to storm surge during hurricanes. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effect of storm surge overwash on wetland amphibian communities. Thirty-two wetlands in northwestern Florida were sampled over a 45-month period to assess amphibian species richness and water chemistry. During this study, seven wetlands were overwashed by storm surge from Hurricane Dennis which made landfall 10 July 2005 in the Florida panhandle. This event allowed us to evaluate the effect of storm surge overwash on water chemistry and amphibian communities of the wetlands. Specific conductance across all wetlands was low pre-storm (<100 μS/cm), but increased post-storm at the overwashed wetlands (\( \bar{x} \) = 7,613 μS/cm). Increased specific conductance was strongly correlated with increases in chloride concentrations. Amphibian species richness showed no correlation with specific conductance. One month post-storm we observed slightly fewer species in overwashed compared with non-overwashed wetlands, but this trend did not continue in 2006. More species were detected across all wetlands pre-storm, but there was no difference between overwashed and non-overwashed wetlands when considering all amphibian species or adult anurans and larval anurans separately. Amphibian species richness did not appear to be correlated with pH or presence of fish although the amphibian community composition differed between wetlands with and without fish. Our results suggest that amphibian communities in wetlands in the southeastern United States adjacent to marine habitats are resistant to the effects of storm surge overwash.


Conductivity Salinity Amphibian Anuran Caudate