, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 641–652 | Cite as

Predation Modifies Larval Amphibian Communities in Urban Wetlands

  • Andrew J. Hamer
  • Kirsten M. Parris


Fish introduced into wetlands can impact amphibian populations through predation on eggs and larvae. While relationships among hydroperiod, habitat complexity and predation on amphibian larvae have been examined in relatively natural freshwater ecosystems, they have not been explicitly considered in urban landscapes. We examined these relationships in 64 urban wetlands in southern Australia using non-native fish and aquatic invertebrates as predators. Larvae of three out of six frog species detected during our study were captured in wetlands containing fish. With other variables held constant, the mean number of tree frog (Litoria spp.) larvae in the wetland with the highest abundance of predatory fish was predicted to be only 0.8–3.2 % of the number of larvae in a fishless wetland. We also found a negative relationship between predatory invertebrates and larval abundance. The abundance of tree frog larvae was greatest in ephemeral wetlands where predatory fish were generally absent. Our results suggest that traditional models of amphibian distribution along pond-permanence gradients may not be applicable in urban ecosystems due to modified hydrology favoring permanent wetlands. To conserve amphibians in urban areas, we recommend draining wetlands periodically to remove exotic fish, and conserving or restoring ephemeral wetlands.


Conservation Exotic species Hydroperiod Urban ecology Urbanization Wetland management 



We thank Sam Davis, Terry Coates, Andrew Gay, Andrew Smith and Colin Walker for facilitating access to wetland sites. Geoff Heard and Eliza Poole assisted with fieldwork. Michael Smith provided advice on trap design. We also thank Marion Anstis for assistance with tadpole identification, and Tara Martin, Michael McCarthy and Joslin Moore for assistance with statistical modeling. The Baker Foundation and National Environmental Research Program (Research Hub for Environmental Decisions) provided generous support for this research. This study was approved by the University of Melbourne Animal Ethics Committee (register no. 0706488). Fieldwork was conducted under research permit no. 10004319 issued by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Supplementary material

13157_2013_420_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (61 kb)
Online Resource 1 Spearman correlation coefficients (Spearman’s rho, ρ) among predator and habitat variables (PDF 61 kb)
13157_2013_420_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (10 kb)
Online Resource 2 Summary of aquatic sampling at 64 urban wetlands in the Greater Melbourne area, Australia (PDF 9 kb)
13157_2013_420_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (16 kb)
Online Resource 3 The mean CPUE of predatory fish (mosquitofish and redfin perch) and the larvae of six frog species according to hydroperiod at 64 wetlands in the Greater Melbourne area, Australia, 2007–2008. CPUE data were log(x+1)-transformed to reduce the influence of large values and to aid in interpretation. Permanent wetlands had a hydroperiod score = 1; ephemeral wetlands had a score <1. (PDF 15 kb)
13157_2013_420_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (8 kb)
Online Resource 4 Proportion of predatory invertebrate taxa captured at the 64 wetlands (PDF 8 kb)


  1. Adams MJ (1999) Correlated factors in amphibian decline: exotic species and habitat change in western Washington. Journal of Wildlife Management 63:1162–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams MJ, Richter KO, Leonard WP (1997) Surveying and monitoring amphibians using aquatic funnel traps. In: Olson DH, Leonard WP, Bury RB (eds) Sampling Amphibians in Lentic Habitats. Northwest Fauna Number 4, Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, Olympia, Washington, pp 47–54Google Scholar
  3. Anderson DR (2008) Model based inference in the life sciences: a primer on evidence. Springer Science + Business Media, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anstis M (2002) Tadpoles of South-eastern Australia: a guide with keys. Reed New Holland, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010) Year Book Australia, 2009–10, No. 91. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  6. Babbitt KJ, Tanner GW (1997) Effects of cover and predator identity on predation of Hyla squirella tadpoles. Journal of Herpetology 31:128–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Babbitt KJ, Baber MJ, Tarr TL (2003) Patterns of larval amphibian distribution along a wetland hydroperiod gradient. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81:1539–1552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Babbitt KJ, Baber MJ, Childers DL, Hocking D (2009) Influence of agricultural upland habitat type on larval anuran assemblages in seasonally inundated wetlands. Wetlands 29:294–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baber MJ, Babbitt KJ (2004) Influence of habitat complexity on predator–prey interactions between the fish (Gambusia holbrooki) and tadpoles of Hyla squirella and Gastrophryne carolinensis. Copeia 2004:173–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Both C, Cechin SZ, Melo AS, Hartz SM (2011) What controls tadpole richness and guild composition in ponds in subtropical grasslands? Austral Ecology 36:530–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bray JR, Curtis JT (1957) An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecological Monographs 27:325–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brönmark C, Edenhamn P (1994) Does the presence of fish affect the distribution of tree frogs (Hyla arborea)? Conservation Biology 8:841–845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brooks SP, Gelman A (1998) General methods for monitoring convergence of iterative simulations. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics 7:434–455Google Scholar
  14. Casterlin ME, Reynolds WW (1977) Aspects of habitat selection in the mosquitofish Gambusia affinis. Hydrobiologia 55:125–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2001) PRIMER v5: user manual/tutorial. PRIMER-E, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  16. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (1994) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Plymouth Marine Laboratory, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  17. Collins JP, Storfer A (2003) Global amphibian declines: sorting the hypotheses. Diversity and Distributions 9:89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Copp GH, Wesley KJ, Vilizzi L (2005) Pathways of ornamental and aquarium fish introductions into urban ponds of Epping Forest (London, England): the human vector. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 21:263–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cumming G, Finch S (2005) Inference by eye: confidence intervals and how to read pictures of data. American Psychologist 60:170–180PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gamradt SC, Kats LB (1996) Effect of introduced crayfish and mosquitofish on California newts. Conservation Biology 10:1155–1162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gelman A, Rubin DB (1992) Inference from iterative simulation using multiple sequences. Statistical Science 7:457–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hamer AJ, McDonnell MJ (2008) Amphibian ecology and conservation in the urbanising world: a review. Biological Conservation 141:2432–2449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hamer AJ, Parris KM (2011) Local and landscape determinants of amphibian communities in urban ponds. Ecological Applications 21:378–390PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hamer AJ, Lane SJ, Mahony MJ (2002) The role of introduced mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) in excluding the native green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) from original habitats in south-eastern Australia. Oecologia 132:445–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harris RN (1999) The anuran tadpole. Evolution and maintenance. In: McDiarmid RW, Altig R (eds) Tadpoles. The biology of anuran larvae. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 279–294Google Scholar
  26. Hartel T, Nemes S, Cogălniceanu D, Öllerer K, Schweiger O, Moga CI, Demeter L (2007) The effect of fish and aquatic habitat complexity on amphibians. Hydrobiologia 583:173–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hero JM, Littlejohn M, Marantelli G (1991) Frogwatch field guide to Victorian frogs. Department of Conservation and Environment, East MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  28. Hero JM, Gascon C, Magnusson WE (1998) Direct and indirect effects of predation on tadpole community structure in the Amazon rainforest. Australian Journal of Ecology 23:474–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heyer WR, McDiarmid RW, Weigmann DL (1975) Tadpoles, predation and pond habitats in the tropics. Biotropica 7:100–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kats LB, Ferrer RP (2003) Alien predators and amphibian declines: review of two decades of science and the transition to conservation. Diversity and Distributions 9:99–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kentula ME, Gwin SE, Pierson SM (2004) Tracking changes in wetlands with urbanization: sixteen years of experience in Portland, Oregon, USA. Wetlands 24:734–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lee SY, Dunn RJK, Young RA, Connolly RM, Dale PER, Dehayr R, Lemckert CJ, McKinnon S, Powell B, Teasdale PR, Welsh DT (2006) Impact of urbanization on coastal wetland structure and function. Austral Ecology 31:149–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Martin TG, Wintle BA, Rhodes JR, Kuhnert PM, Field SA, Low-Choy SJ, Tyre AJ, Possingham HP (2005) Zero tolerance ecology: improving ecological inference by modelling the source of zero observations. Ecology Letters 8:1235–1246PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McCarthy MA (2007) Bayesian methods for ecology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McDonnell MJ, Holland K (2008) Biodiversity. In: Newton PW (ed) Transitions: transitioning to resilient cities. CSIRO, Melbourne, pp 253–266Google Scholar
  36. Morgan LA, Buttemer WA (1996) Predation by the non-native fish Gambusia holbrooki on small Litoria aurea and L. dentata tadpoles. Australian Zoologist 30:143–149Google Scholar
  37. Parris KM (2006) Urban amphibian assemblages as metacommunities. Journal of Animal Ecology 75:757–764PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pearl CA, Adams MJ, Leuthold N, Bury RB (2005) Amphibian occurrence and aquatic invaders in a changing landscape: implications for wetland mitigation in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA. Wetlands 25:76–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pechmann JHK, Scott DE, Gibbons JW, Semlitsch RD (1989) Influence of wetland hydroperiod on diversity and abundance of metamorphosing juvenile amphibians. Wetlands Ecology and Management 1:3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Peterson AG, Bull MC, Wheeler LM (1992) Habitat choice and predator avoidance in tadpoles. Journal of Herpetology 26:142–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pyke GH (2005) A review of the biology of Gambusia affinis and G. holbrooki. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 15:339–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pyke GH (2008) Plague minnow or mosquito fish? A review of the biology and impacts of introduced Gambusia species. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 39:171–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pyke GH, White AW (2000) Factors influencing predation on eggs and tadpoles of the endangered green and golden bell frog Litoria aurea by the introduced plague minnow Gambusia holbrooki. Australian Zoologist 31:496–505Google Scholar
  44. Richter KO (1995) A simple aquatic funnel trap and its application to wetland amphibian monitoring. Herpetological Review 26:90–91Google Scholar
  45. Riley SPD, Busteed GT, Kats LB, Vandergon TL, Lee LFS, Dagit RG, Kerby JL, Fisher RN, Sauvajot RM (2005) Effects of urbanization on the distribution and abundance of amphibians and invasive species in southern California streams. Conservation Biology 19:1894–1907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rubbo MJ, Kiesecker JM (2005) Amphibian breeding distribution in an urbanized landscape. Conservation Biology 19:504–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Semlitsch RD, Scott DE, Pechmann JHK, Gibbons JW (1996) Structure and dynamics of an amphibian community: evidence from a 16-year study of a natural pond. In: Cody ML, Smallwood JA (eds) Long-term studies of vertebrate communities. Academic, San Diego, pp 217–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shaffer HB, Alford RA, Woodward BD, Richards SJ, Altig RG, Gascon C (1994) Quantitative sampling of amphibian larvae. In: Heyer WR, Donnelly MA, McDiarmid RW, Hayek LC, Foster MS (eds) Measuring and monitoring biological diversity. Standard methods for amphibians. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, pp 130–141Google Scholar
  49. Shulse CD, Semlitsch RD, Trauth KM, Williams AD (2010) Influences of design and landscape placement parameters on amphibian abundance in constructed wetlands. Wetlands 30:915–928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shulse CD, Semlitsch RD, Trauth KM, Gardner JE (2012) Testing wetland features to increase amphibian reproductive success and species richness for mitigation and restoration. Ecological Applications 22:1675–1688PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Skelly DK (1996) Pond drying, predators, and the distribution of Pseudacris tadpoles. Copeia 3:599–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Snodgrass JW, Bryan AL Jr, Burger J (2000a) Development of expectations of larval amphibian assemblage structure in southeastern depression wetlands. Ecological Applications 10:1219–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Snodgrass JW, Komoroski MJ, Bryan AL Jr, Burger J (2000b) Relationships among isolated wetland size, hydroperiod, and amphibian species richness: implications for wetland regulations. Conservation Biology 14:414–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Spiegelhalter DJ, Best NG, Carlin BP, van der Linde A (2002) Bayesian measures of model complexity and fit. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B 64:583–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Spiegelhalter D, Thomas A, Best N, Lunn D (2007) OpenBUGS user manual, version 3.0.2. MRC Biostatistics Unit, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  56. Stern H (2005) Climate. In: Brown-May A, Swain S (eds) The encyclopedia of Melbourne. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, pp 147–154Google Scholar
  57. Tarr TL, Babbitt KJ (2002) Effects of habitat complexity and predator identity on predation of Rana clamitans larvae. Amphibia-Reptilia 23:13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tyre AJ, Tenhumberg B, Field SA, Niejalke D, Parris K, Possingham HP (2003) Improving precision and reducing bias in biological surveys: estimating false-negative error rates. Ecological Applications 13:1790–1801CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Van Buskirk J (2005) Local and landscape influence on amphibian occurrence and abundance. Ecology 86:1936–1947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wellborn GA, Skelly DK, Werner EE (1996) Mechanisms creating community structure across a freshwater habitat gradient. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 27:337–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wells KD (2007) The ecology and behavior of amphibians. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Welsh AH, Cunningham RB, Donnelly CF, Lindenmayer DB (1996) Modelling the abundance of rare species: statistical models for counts with extra zeros. Ecological Modelling 88:297–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Werner EE, Skelly DK, Relyea RA, Yurewicz KL (2007) Amphibian species richness across environmental gradients. Oikos 116:1697–1712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wilbur HM (1987) Regulation of structure in complex systems: experimental temporary pond communities. Ecology 68:1437–1452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wintle BA, Bardos DC (2006) Modeling species-habitat relationships with spatially autocorrelated observation data. Ecological Applications 16:1945–1958PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, c/o School of BotanyUniversity of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia
  2. 2.School of BotanyUniversity of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia

Personalised recommendations