Landscape Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 609–615 | Cite as

Species absence in developed landscapes: an experimental evaluation

  • Alex Shepack
  • L. Kealoha Freidenburg
  • David K. Skelly
Research Article



Conversion of landscapes is widely associated with loss of biodiversity. While there are several competing hypotheses for the local extinction of species in developed landscapes, experimental approaches are seldom applied to elucidating mechanisms.


In this study, we focus on the habitat degradation hypothesis and predict that poor quality of relictual wetlands in developed landscapes contributes to the absence of wood frogs (Rana sylvatica = Lithobates sylvaticus) by decreasing their performance.


In a translocation experiment, we reared wood frog larvae within enclosures in seven ponds where they naturally occur and in five ponds in developed landscapes where they are absent. Premature pond drying precluded assessing performance in one present pond and one absent pond.


Absent ponds were surrounded by upland buffers dominated by developed land covers while ponds with wood frog breeding populations were surrounded primarily by intact forest. Ponds were largely similar in their attributes. Survival and growth rate did not differ between pond types. Development tended to be slightly more rapid in some absent ponds perhaps related to higher water temperatures.


Despite the highly altered landscapes surrounding them, we find no evidence that absent wetlands provide inferior habitat for wood frog larval recruitment. Performance in absent ponds matched or exceeded that observed in present ponds implying that absence of this species may stem from influences mediated by the upland landscape. These results provide a caution to the typically unexamined presumption that relictual habitats in developed landscapes are degraded in their utility for wildlife.


Local extinction Suburbanization Amphibian Transplant Field experiment Habitat Wetland 

Supplementary material

10980_2016_464_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Online Appendix (DOCX 13 kb)
10980_2016_464_MOESM2_ESM.docx (114 kb)
Table S1 (DOCX 113 kb)
10980_2016_464_MOESM3_ESM.docx (92 kb)
Table S2 (DOCX 91 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Shepack
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Kealoha Freidenburg
    • 1
  • David K. Skelly
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Forestry & Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesSouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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