Landscape Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 719–729 | Cite as

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

  • Matthew J. GrayEmail author
  • Loren M. Smith
  • Raquel I. Leyva
Research Article


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.

Key words

Amphibians Conservation Demographics Spatial metrics Wetlands 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson A.M., Haukos D.A. and Anderson J.T. 1999. Diet composition of three anurans from the playa wetlands of northwest Texas. Copeia 1999: 515–520.Google Scholar
  2. Bascompte J. and Solé R. V. 1996. Habitat fragmentation and extinction thresholds in spatially explicit models. Journal of Animal Ecology 65: 465–473.Google Scholar
  3. Burel F. 1989. Landscape structure effects on carabid beetles spatial patterns in western France. Landscape Ecology 2: 215–226.Google Scholar
  4. Crist T.O., Guertin D.S., Wiens J.A. and Milne B.T. 1992. Animal movement in heterogeneous landscapes: an experiment with Eleodes beetles in shortgrass prairie. Functional Ecology 6: 536–544.Google Scholar
  5. Dayton G.H. and Fitzgerald L.A. 2001. Competition, predation, and the distributions of four desert anurans. Oecologia 129: 430–435.Google Scholar
  6. Driscoll D. A. 1997. Mobility and metapopulation structure of Geocrinia alba and Geocrinia vitellina, two endangered frog species from southwestern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 22: 185–195.Google Scholar
  7. Dodd Jr., C. K. and Scott D. E. 1994. Drift fences encircling breeding sites.. In: Heyer W.R., Donnelly M.A., McDiarmid R.W., Hayek L.-A.C. and Foster M.S. (eds), Measuring and monitoring biological diversity: standard methods for amphibians. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA, pp. 125–130.Google Scholar
  8. Fahrig L. and Merriam G. 1985. Habitat patch connectivity and population survival. Ecology 66: 1762–1768.Google Scholar
  9. Fahrig L. and Merriam G. 1994. Conservation of fragmented populations. Conservation Biology 8: 50–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fahrig L. and Paloheimo J. 1988. Determinants of local population size in patchy habitats. Theoretical Population Biology 34: 194–212.Google Scholar
  11. Gehlbach F.R. 1967. Evolution of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) on the Grand Canyon rims, Arizona. Yearbook of the American Philosophical Society 1967: 266–269.Google Scholar
  12. Gehlbach F.R., Kimmel J.R. and Weems W.A. 1969. Aggregations and body water relations in tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) from the Grand Canyon rims, Arizona. Physiological Zoology 42: 173–182.Google Scholar
  13. Gray M.J. 2002. Effect of anthropogenic disturbance and landscape structure on body size, demographics, and chaotic dynamics of Southern High Plains amphibians. Ph.D. Thesis, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, USA, 180 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Gray M.J., Smith L.M. and Brenes R. 2004. Effects of agricultural cultivation on demographics of Southern High Plains amphibians. Conservation Biology 18: (in press).Google Scholar
  15. Guerry A.D. and Hunter Jr. M.L. 2002. Amphibian distributions in a landscape of forests and agriculture: an examination of landscape composition and configuration. Conservation Biology 16: 745–754.Google Scholar
  16. Guthery F.S. and Bryant F.C. 1982. Status of playas in the Southern Great Plains. Wildlife Society Bulletin 10: 309–317.Google Scholar
  17. Hess G. 1996. Linking extinction to connectivity and habitat destruction in metapopulation models. American Naturalist 148: 226–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heyer W.R., Donnelly M.A., McDiarmid R.W., Hayek L.- A.C. and Foster M.S. (eds) 1994. Measuring and monitoring biological diversity: standard methods for amphibians. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA.Google Scholar
  19. Houlahan J.E., Findlay C.S., Schmidt B.R., Meyers A.H. and Kuzmin S.L. 2000. Quantitative evidence for global amphibian population declines. Nature 404: 752–755.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Knutson M.G., Sauer J.R., Olsen D.A., Mossman M.J., Hemesath L.M. and Lannoo M.J. 1999. Effects of landscape composition and wetland fragmentation on frog and toad abundance and species richness in Iowa and Wisconsin, U.S.A. Conservation Biology 13: 1437–1446.Google Scholar
  21. Kolozsvary M.B. and Swihart R.K. 1999. Habitat fragmentation and the distribution of amphibians: patch and landscape correlates in farmland. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77: 1288–1299.Google Scholar
  22. Lefkovitch L. P. and Fahrig L. 1985. Spatial characteristics of habitat patches and population survival. Ecological Modelling 30: 297–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Luo H.R., Smith L.M., Allen B.L. and Haukos D.A. 1997. Effects of sedimentation on playa wetland volume. Ecological Applications 7: 247–252.Google Scholar
  24. Luo H.R., Smith L.M., Haukos D.A. and Allen B.L. 1999. Sources of recently deposited sediments in playa wetlands. Wetlands 19: 176–181.Google Scholar
  25. Marsh D.M. and Pearman P.B. 1997. Effects of habitat fragmentation on the abundance of two species of Leptodactylid frogs in an Andean montane forest. Conservation Biology 11: 1323–1328.Google Scholar
  26. Marsh D.M. and Trenham P.C. 2001. Metapopulation dynamics and amphibian conservation. Conservation Biology 15: 40–49.Google Scholar
  27. McGarigal K. and Marks B.J. 1995. FRAGSTATS: spatial pattern analysis program for quantifying landscape structure. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report PNW-GTR-351.Google Scholar
  28. McIntyre N. E. 2000. Community structure of Eleodes beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) in the shortgrass steppe: scale-dependent uses of heterogeneity. Western North American Naturalist 60: 1–15.Google Scholar
  29. Miaud C., Sanuy D. and Avrillier J.-N. 2000. Terrestrial movements of the natterjack toad Bufo calamita (Amphibia, Anura) in a semi-arid, agricultural landscape. Amphibia-Reptilia 21: 357–369.Google Scholar
  30. Milton J.S. and Arnold J.C. 1995. Introduction to probability and statistics. Third edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  31. Morin P.J. 1983. Predation, competition, and the composition of larval anuran guilds. Ecological Monographs 53: 119–138.Google Scholar
  32. Peters R.H. 1983. The ecological implications of body size. Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  33. Pope S.E., Fahrig L. and Merriam G. 2000. Landscape complementation and metapopulation effects on leopard frog populations. Ecology 80: 2326–2337.Google Scholar
  34. Ritchie M.E. 1997. Populations in a landscape context: sources, sinks, and metapopulations.. In: Bissonette J.A. (ed.), Wildlife and landscape ecology: effects of pattern and scale. Springer-Verläg, New York, New York, USA, pp. 160–184.Google Scholar
  35. Rosenzweig M.L. 1995. Species diversity in space and time. Cambridge University, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  36. Rothermel B.B. and Semlitsch R.D. 2002. An experimental investigation of landscape resistance of forest versus old-field habitats to emigrating juvenile amphibians. Conservation Biology 16: 1324–1332.Google Scholar
  37. Scribner K.T., Arntzen J.W., Cruddace N., Oldham R.S. and Burke T. 2001. Environmental correlates of toad abundance and population genetic diversity. Biological Conservation 98: 201–210.Google Scholar
  38. Sinsch U. 1990. Migration and orientation in anuran amphibians. Ethology Ecology and Evolution 2: 65–79.Google Scholar
  39. Sinsch U. 1997. Postmetamorphic dispersal and recruitment of first breeders in a Bufo calamita metapopulation. Oecologia 112: 42–47.Google Scholar
  40. Sjögren P. 1991. Extinction and isolation gradients in metapopulations: the case of the pool frog (Rana lessonae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 42: 135–147.Google Scholar
  41. Smith L.M. 2003. Playas of the Great Plains. University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA.Google Scholar
  42. Smith L.M., Gray M.J. and Quarles A. 2003. Diets of newly metamorphosed amphibians in West Texas playas. Southwestern Naturalist 50: (in press).Google Scholar
  43. Smith L.M. and Haukos D.A. 2002. Floral diversity in relation to playa wetland area and watershed disturbance. Conservation Biology 16: 964–974.Google Scholar
  44. Stacey P.B., Johnson V.A. and Taper M.L. 1997. Migration within metapopulations: the impact upon local population dynamics. In: Hanski I.A. and Gilpin M.E. (eds), Metapopulation biology: ecology, genetics, and evolution. Academic, San Diego, California, USA, pp. 267–291.Google Scholar
  45. Stamps J.A., Buechner M. and Krishnan V.V. 1987. The effects of edge permeability and habitat geometry on emigration from patches of habitat. American Naturalist 129: 533–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Szacki J. 1999. Spatially structured populations: how much do they match the classic metapopulation concept? Landscape Ecology 14: 369–379.Google Scholar
  47. Taylor P.D., Fahrig L., Henein K. and Merriam G. 1993. Connectivity is a vital element of landscape structure. Oikos 68: 571–573.Google Scholar
  48. ter Braak C.J.F. 1986. Canonical correspondence analysis: a new eigenvector technique for multivariate direct gradient analysis. Ecology 67: 1167–1179.Google Scholar
  49. ter Braak C.J.F. 1994. Canonical community ordination. Part I: basic theory and linear methods. Ecoscience 1: 127–140.Google Scholar
  50. ter Braak C.J.F. 1995. Ordination. In: Jongman R.H.G., ter Braak C.J.F. and Van Tongeren O.F.R. (eds), Data analysis in community and landscape ecology. Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK, pp. 91–173.Google Scholar
  51. ter Braak C.J.F. and Šmilauer P. 1998. CANOCO reference manual and user’s guide to Canoco for windows: software for canonical community ordination (version 4). Microcomputer Power, Ithaca, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  52. Wiens J.A. 1997. Metapopulation dynamics and landscape ecology. In: Hanski I. A. and Gilpin M.E. (eds), Metapopulation biology: ecology, genetics, and evolution. Academic, New York, New York, USA, pp. 43–62.Google Scholar
  53. Wiens J.A., Schooley R.L. and Weeks R.D. Jr. 1997. Patchy landscapes and animal movements: do beetles percolate? Oikos 78: 257–264.Google Scholar
  54. Wilbur H.M. 1987. Regulation of structure in complex systems: experimental temporary pond communities. Ecology 68: 1437–1452.Google Scholar
  55. With K.A. 1994. Ontogenetic shifts in how grasshoppers interact with landscape structure: an analysis of movement patterns. Functional Ecology 8: 477–485.Google Scholar
  56. With K.A. and Crist T.O. 1995. Critical thresholds in species’ responses to landscape structure. Ecology 76: 2446–2459.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Gray
    • 1
    Email author
  • Loren M. Smith
    • 1
  • Raquel I. Leyva
    • 2
  1. 1.Wildlife and Fisheries Management InstituteTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.The Nature ConservancySan AntonioUSA

Personalised recommendations