Calling phenology of a diverse amphibian assemblage in response to meteorological conditions

Abstract

The strong association between amphibian activity, breeding and recruitment with local environmental conditions raises concerns regarding how changes in climate may affect the persistence of species populations into the future. Additionally, in a highly diverse assemblage of anurans, competition for breeding sites affects the time and duration of activity, as species compete for limited resources such as water. Meteorological conditions are strong drivers of amphibian activity, so we assessed whether temperature, rainfall, atmospheric pressure and humidity were associated with the calling phenology of an assemblage of anurans in South East Queensland, Australia. We performed calling surveys and collected digital recordings at 45 ponds in an area known for high anuran diversity. We performed detection analyses to investigate the influence of 10 meteorological variables in detection of calling activity in 19 amphibian species. Our results suggest four breeding strategies in the assemblage: explosive summer breeders, prolonged breeders, opportunistic breeders and a winter breeder. Classifying these species into associations provides a framework for understanding how species respond to environmental conditions. Explosive breeders (i.e. species demonstrating short and highly synchronised breeding periods) were particularly responsive to temperature. Our findings help elucidate the breeding phenology of frogs and provide valuable information on their mating systems in native Australian forests. This study highlights the difficulties of surveying even common anurans. We highlight the importance of predictability and stability in climate and the vulnerability of species for which reproduction appears to require highly specific environmental cues.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Buhagiar, C. Johnstone, M. Familiar-Lopez, C. Goulet and F. Hohaia for assistance in the field.

Funding

The research was funded by the Ric Nattrass scholarship (Queensland Frog Society), Griffith School of Environment postgraduate support scheme, the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment Fund (grants to TLP) and a Science Faculty Early Career Researcher Grant (to DGC).

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Correspondence to T. Lynette Plenderleith.

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This research was conducted under Monash University Biological Sciences Animal Ethics Committee approval BSCI-2013-20, Griffith University Animal Ethics Committee approval ENV/23/13/AEC and Queensland research and collection permit WISP14217514.

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Plenderleith, T., Stratford, D., Lollback, G.W. et al. Calling phenology of a diverse amphibian assemblage in response to meteorological conditions. Int J Biometeorol 62, 873–882 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-017-1490-2

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Keywords

  • Anuran
  • Detection analysis
  • Frog communication
  • Litoria
  • Myobatrachidae
  • Bufo