, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 719-729

Influence of agricultural landscape structure on a Southern High Plains, USA, amphibian assemblage

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Abstract

Landscape structure can influence demographics of spatially structured populations, particularly less vagile organisms such as amphibians. We examined the influence of agricultural landscape structure on community composition and relative abundance of the 4 most common amphibians in the Southern High Plains of central USA. Amphibian populations were monitored using pitfall traps and drift fence at 16 playa wetlands (8 playas/year) in 1999 and 2000. We quantified landscape structure surrounding each playa via estimating 13 spatial metrics that indexed playa isolation and inter-playa landscape complexity. Multivariate ordination and univariate correlations and regressions indicated that landscape structure was associated with community composition and relative abundance for 2 of the 4 amphibians. Spadefoots (Spea multiplicata, S. bombifrons) generally were positively associated with decreasing inter-playa distance and increasing inter-playa landscape complexity. Great Plains toads (Bufo cognatus) and barred tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum mavortium) usually were negatively associated with spadefoots but not influenced by landscape structure. Composition and relative abundance patterns were related to amphibian body size, which can influence species vagility and perception to landscape permeability. Spatial separation of these species in the multivariate ordination also may have been a consequence of differential competitive ability among species. These results suggest agricultural landscape structure may influence abundance and composition of spatially structured amphibian populations. This also is the first applied documentation that inter-patch landscape complexity can affect intra-patch community composition of amphibians as predicted by metapopulation theory. In the Southern High Plains, landscape complexity is positively associated with agricultural cultivation. Agricultural cultivation increases sedimentation, decreases hydroperiod, alters amphibian community dynamics, and negatively impacts postmetamorphic body size of amphibians in playa wetlands. Thus, conservation efforts should focus on preserving or restoring native landscape structure, hydroperiod, and connectivity among playas to maintain native amphibian populations and historic inter-playa movement.