Timing of oviposition influences the effects of a non-native grass on amphibian development

Abstract

Land-use change can alter the energy dynamics in aquatic systems by changing the subsidies that form the nutrient base within them. However, experimental evaluations of subsidy change often fail to consider how effects, such as differences in individual growth and survival, may differ under varying ecological contexts experienced in the field. We used a mesocosm approach to investigate how litter (Native Prairie or Non-Native Tall-Fescue Grass) surrounding wetlands and timing of oviposition affected larval amphibian development. We found that survival differed between litter types in the Early-Oviposition treatment, with nearly 100% mortality in Fescue treatments. Conversely, survival  was similar across litter types in the Late Oviposition treatment (~ 43%), and larvae in Late-Fescue treatments metamorphosed more quickly and were larger post-metamorphosis than larvae in Prairie treatments. Follow-up experiments confirmed that low dissolved oxygen (DO) was responsible for high mortality in Early-Fescue treatments; high quantities of Fescue resulted in a microbial bloom that reduced DO to < 2 mg/L for several days, resulting in low hatching success. This effect was eliminated in treatments with supplemental aeration. Finally, we confirmed that experimentally observed DO patterns also occurred in the field. Context (i.e., timing of inundation relative to amphibian breeding) is critical to understanding the effects of subsidies on amphibian populations; early and explosively breeding species may experience catastrophic mortality due to DO depletion; whereas, species that breed later may experience enhanced fitness of recruits. Considering the effects of non-native species across different ecological contexts is necessary for elucidating the extent of their impacts.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during the current study are available as an electronic supplement with this manuscript.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was partially provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF DBI 1659857) and the University of Arkansas, as well as Prairie Biotic Research and the Arkansas Audubon Society Trust. We thank Mackenzie Bramlett, Jessika Dorcas, Logan Estes, Dr. Jackie Guzy, Kelly Halloran, Micalea Klaus, David Reed, Meredith Swartwout, and Phil Vogrinc for help in vegetation and data collection. We thank Dr. Jennifer Mortensen for assisting in data analysis in the egg hatching experiment and data collection. Thank you to Erik Pollock and Lindsey Conaway, from the University of Arkansas Stable Isotope Laboratory, for running nutrient analyses. We also thank Dr. Hal Halvorson for running preliminary nutrient tests. Thank you to Drs Steve Beaupre, Jeff Briggler, and Dan Magoulick for project guidance and comments on early versions of this manuscript. Additionally, we thank Ethan Royal and three reviewers for their comments that improved this manuscript. For site access and support, we thank the City of Fayetteville and Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary, especially Jeff Hickle and Bruce Shackleford.

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CSK and JDW conceived the ideas and designed methodology; CSK, AKD, and PLM collected the data; CSK and AKD analyzed the data, CSK led the writing of the manuscript, comments from JDW improved the manuscript. All authors gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Chelsea S. Kross.

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All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals and were approved and followed (IACUC protocol #’s 15033 and 17079).

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Communicated by Howard Whiteman.

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Kross, C.S., Dodd, A.K., Mariage, P.L. et al. Timing of oviposition influences the effects of a non-native grass on amphibian development. Oecologia 194, 113–122 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-020-04744-3

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Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Grasslands
  • Microbial respiration
  • Lithobates