, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 377–384 | Cite as

Leaf litter input mediates tadpole performance across forest canopy treatments

  • Bethany K. WilliamsEmail author
  • Tracy A. G. Rittenhouse
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
Community Ecology - Original Paper


Understanding the mechanisms limiting the distributions of organisms is necessary for predicting changes in community composition along habitat gradients. In many areas of the USA, land originally cleared for agriculture has been undergoing a process of reforestation, creating a gradient of canopy cover. For small temporary wetlands, this gradient can alter abiotic conditions and influence the resource base of wetland food webs by affecting litter inputs. As distributions of amphibians and many other temporary wetland taxa correlate with canopy cover, we experimentally manipulated shade levels and litter types in pond mesocosms to explore mechanisms limiting species performance in wetlands with canopy cover. Most differences between ponds were mediated by litter type rather than direct effects of shading. Although all three amphibian species tested are open-canopy specialists, spring peepers were the only species to show decreased survival in shaded ponds. Pond litter type generally had strong effects on growth and development rates, with tadpoles of two species in grass litter ponds growing to twice the size of, and metamorphosing 7 days earlier than, those in leaf litter ponds. Contrary to our initial hypothesis, shade level and litter type showed very few significant interactions. Our results indicate that the effects of shading cannot be considered in isolation of vegetation changes in pond basins when evaluating the effects of forest succession on temporary pond communities.


Amphibian Anuran Mesocosm Metamorphosis Shade 



We thank M. Doyle, R. Mank, and B. Sonderman for assistance with the experiment. S. James and M. Boone provided support for fluorometric analyses, and the manuscript benefited from comments by W. McClain and S. Humfeld. Funding was provided by a University of Missouri Conservation Biology fellowship to T. A. G. Rittenhouse, a US Department of Education GAANN fellowship to B. K. Williams, and National Science Foundation Grant 0239943 to R. D. Semlitsch. Experiments were completed under University of Missouri Animal Care and Use Protocol no. 2774 and complied with all current laws of the USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bethany K. Williams
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tracy A. G. Rittenhouse
    • 1
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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