, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 263-268

Distribution of woodland amphibians along a forest fragmentation gradient

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Abstract

Understanding how changes in land-use affect the distribution and abundance of organisms is an increasingly important question in landscape ecology. Amphibians may be especially prone to local extinction resulting from human-caused transformation and fragmentation of their habitats owing to the spatially and temporally dynamic nature of their populations. In this study, distributions of five species of woodland amphibians with differing life histories were surveyed along a 10 km, spatially continuous gradient of forest fragmentation in southern Connecticut, U.S.A. Redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and northern spring peepers (Pseudacris c. crucifer) occupied available habitat along the gradient's length. Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) were absent from portions of the gradient where forest cover was reduced to below about 30%. Red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus v. viridescens) did not persist below a forest cover threshold of about 50%. Correlations between species' biological traits and their fragmentation tolerance imply that low density, population variability, and high mobility coupled with restricted habitat needs predispose woodland amphibians to local extinction caused by habitat fragmentation. These patterns are in contrast to the widely held notion that populations of the best dispersers are those most tolerant of habitat fragmentation.