, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 915–928 | Cite as

Influences of Design and Landscape Placement Parameters on Amphibian Abundance in Constructed Wetlands

  • Christopher D. ShulseEmail author
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
  • Kathleen M. Trauth
  • Arnold D. Williams


As natural wetlands disappear, constructed wetlands may play vital roles in amphibian conservation. However, previous investigations have concluded that artificial wetlands do not adequately replace lost wildlife habitat. Nevertheless, constructed wetlands serve as breeding habitat for amphibians where extensive natural wetland loss has occurred. To investigate the roles of engineered wetland features on amphibian abundance, we surveyed 49 constructed wetlands throughout northern Missouri. Cricket frogs (Acris crepitans), bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus), and leopard frogs (Lithobates blairi/sphenocephalus complex) each occurred in over 80% of surveyed wetlands. Salamanders and hylid frogs were rarely encountered. We used an information theoretic approach to examine relationships between individual species and habitat features associated with wetland designs and placements. We found that models incorporating design features of open water ponds best explained abundances of most commonly encountered species. At the placement level, models that included nearby aquatic habitat ranked highest for common species. Salamanders and most hylid frogs responded positively to aquatic vegetative cover but negatively to fish abundance and anthropogenic disturbance-related features in the landscape. Our results indicate that to be effective amphibian conservation tools, constructed wetlands should be fish-free, heavily vegetated, include shallows, and placed within areas of low anthropogenic disturbance.


Amphibian conservation Compensatory mitigation Artificial ponds Anthropogenic disturbance 



We thank the staff of the Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Conservation, University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences, and University of Missouri Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, especially Gene Gardner, Jeff Briggler, Gayle Unruh, and Buck Brooks. Tracy Rittenhouse, Bethany Williams, Julia Earl, William Peterman, and three anonymous reviewers provided insightful comments on this manuscript. Dana Drake and Andrea Drayer provided dedicated service in the field. United States Environmental Protection Agency Region VII Wetland Development Grant CD-98769101-0 funded this project. We worked under Missouri Department of Conservation Wildlife Collector’s Permit 13024 and University of Missouri Animal Care and Use Protocol 4189.

Supplementary material

13157_2010_69_MOESM1_ESM.doc (117 kb)
Online Resource Table 1 Surveyed wetlands and characteristics. Temporary wetlands are in bold (DOC 117 kb).
13157_2010_69_MOESM2_ESM.doc (178 kb)
Online Resource Fig. 1 Locations of surveyed wetlands in northern Missouri. Some dots represent 2 wetlands due to proximity (DOC 178 kb).


  1. Adams M, Pearl C, Bury R (2003) Indirect facilitation of an anuran invasion by non-native fishes. Ecological Letters 6:343–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ambrose R, Lee S (2004) An evaluation of compensatory mitigation projects permitted under Clean Water Act Section 401 by the Los Angeles Regional Quality Control Board, 1991–2002. California State Water Resources Control Board, Los Angeles, California, USAGoogle Scholar
  3. Boone M, Semlitsch R, Mosby C (2008) Suitability of golf course ponds for amphibian metamorphosis when bullfrogs are removed. Conservation Biology 22:172–179CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Brand A, Snodgrass J (2010) Value of artificial habitats for amphibian reproduction in altered landscapes. Conservation Biology 24:295–301CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Burnham K, Anderson D (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach, 2nd edn. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Dahl T (1990) Wetlands losses in the United States, 1780′s to 1980′s. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. Dahl T (2006) Status and trends of wetlands in the conterminous United States 1999–2004. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  8. Daniel R, Edmond B (2010) Atlas of Missouri amphibians and reptiles for 2009. Accessed 05 May 2010
  9. Deal C, Edwards J, Pellmann N, Tuttle R, Woodward D (1997) Ponds—planning, design, construction. In: Mattinson M, Glasscock L (eds) Agriculture handbook number 590. U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  10. Dodd C, Smith L (2003) Habitat destruction and alteration. Historical trends and future prospects for amphibians. In: Semlitsch R (ed) Amphibian conservation. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, pp 94–112Google Scholar
  11. Environmental Laboratory (1987) Corps of Engineers wetlands delineation manual, Technical Report Y-87-1. U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, VicksburgGoogle Scholar
  12. Fahrig L, Pedlar J, Pope S, Taylor P, Wegner J (1995) Effect of road traffic on amphibian density. Biological Conservation 73:177–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Figiel C Jr, Semlitsch R (1990) Population variation in survival and metamorphosis of larval salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). Copeia 1990:818–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Findlay C, Bourdages J (2000) Response time of wetland biodiversity to road construction on adjacent lands. Conservation Biology 14:86–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gagné S, Fahrig L (2007) Effect of landscape context on anuran communities in breeding ponds in the National Capitol Region, Canada. Landscape Ecology 22:205–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gahl M, Calhoun A, Graves R (2009) Facultative use of seasonal pools by American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). Wetlands 29:697–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gardner T, Barlow J, Peres C (2007) Paradox, presumption, and pitfalls in conservation biology: the importance of habitat change for amphibians and reptiles. Biological Conservation 138:166–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guerry A, Hunter M Jr (2002) Amphibian distributions in a landscape of forests and agriculture: an examination of landscape composition. Conservation Biology 16:745–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harper E, Semlitsch R (2007) Density dependence in the terrestrial life history stage of two anurans. Oecologia 153:879–889CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Harper E, Rittenhouse T, Semlitsch R (2008) Demographic consequences of terrestrial habitat loss for pool-breeding amphibians: predicting extinction risks associated with inadequate size of buffer zones. Conservation Biology 22(5):1205–1215CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Hartel T, Nemes S, Cogălniceanu D, Öllerer K, Schweiger O, Moga C, Demeter L (2007) The effect of fish and aquatic habitat complexity on amphibians. Hydrobiolgia 583:173–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hazell D, Hero K, Lindenmayer D, Cunningham R (2004) A comparison of constructed and natural habitat for frog conservation in an Australian agricultural landscape. Biological Conservation 119:61–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hecnar S, M’Closkey R (1997) The effects of predatory fish on amphibian species richness and distribution. Biological Conservation 79:123–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hocking D, Rittenhouse T, Rothermel B, Johnson J, Connor C, Harper E, Semlitsch R (2008) Breeding and recruitment phenology of amphibians in Missouri oak-hickory forests. American Midland Naturalist 160:41–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Houlahan J, Findlay C (2003) The effects of adjacent land use on wetland amphibian species richness and community composition. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 60:1078–1094CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson T (2000) The amphibians and reptiles of Missouri. Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Jefferson CityGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson J, Knouft J, Semlitsch R (2007) Sex and seasonal differences in the spatial terrestrial distribution of gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) populations. Biological Conservation 140:250–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jorgensen B (1997) 200 years of amphibian water economy: from Robert Townsend to the present. Biological Review 1997:153–237Google Scholar
  29. Kats L, Petranka J, Sih A (1988) Antipredator defenses and persistence of amphibian larvae with fishes. Ecology 69:1865–1870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kettlewell C, Bouchard V, Porej D, Micacchion M, Mack J, White D, Fay L (2008) An assessment of wetland impacts and compensatory mitigation in the Cuyahoga River Watershed, Ohio, U.S.A. Wetlands 28:57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kihslinger R (2008) Success of wetland mitigation projects. National Wetlands Newsletter 30:14–16Google Scholar
  32. Knutson M, Sauer J, Olsen D, Mossman M, Hemesath L, Lannoo M (1999) Effects of landscape composition and wetland fragmentation on frog and toad abundance and species richness in Iowa and Wisconsin, U.S.A. Conservation Biology 13(6):1437–1446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knutson M, Sauer J, Olsen D, Mossman M, Hemesath L, Lannoo M (2000) Landscape associations of frog and toad species in Iowa and Wisconsin, U.S.A. Journal of the Iowa Academy of Sciences 107:134–145Google Scholar
  34. Knutson M, Richardson W, Reineke D, Gray B, Parmelee J, Weick S (2004) Agricultural ponds support amphibian populations. Ecological Applications 14:669–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lannoo M (1998) Amphibian conservation and wetland management in the upper Midwest: a catch-22 for the cricket frog? In: Lannoo M (ed) Status and conservation of Midwestern Amphibians. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, pp 330–339Google Scholar
  36. Lannoo M (ed) (2005) Amphibian declines: the conservation status of United States species. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  37. Mack J, Micacchion M (2006) An ecological assessment of Ohio mitigation banks: vegetation, amphibians, hydrology, and soils. Ohio EPA Technical Report WET/2006-1. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Surface Water, Wetland Ecology Unit, Columbus, Ohio, USAGoogle Scholar
  38. Madison D, Farrand L III (1998) Habitat use during breeding and emigration in radio-implanted tiger salamanders, Ambystoma tigrinum. Copeia 1998:402–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marsh D, Trenham P (2001) Metapopulation dynamics and amphibian conservation. Conservation Biology 15:40–49Google Scholar
  40. Minkin P, Ladd R (2003) Success of Corps-required mitigation in New England. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England District, Concord, Massachusetts, USA. Accessed 25 May 2010
  41. Mitsch W, Gosselink J (1993) Wetlands, 2nd edn. Van Norstrand Reinhold, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. National Research Council (2001) Compensating for wetland losses under the Clean Water Act. National Academy Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  43. Nigh T, Schroeder W (2002) Atlas of Missouri ecoregions. Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Jefferson CityGoogle Scholar
  44. Pearl C, Adams M, Leuthold N, Bury R (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
  45. Pechmann J, Estes R, Scott D, Gibbons J (2001) Amphibian colonization and use of ponds created for trial mitigation of wetland loss. Wetlands 21:93–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Perry K (2006) Missouri pond handbook. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson CityGoogle Scholar
  47. Porej D, Hetherington T (2005) Designing wetlands for amphibians: the importance of predatory fish and shallow littoral zones in structuring amphibian communities. Wetlands Ecology and Management 13:445–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Porej D, Micacchion M, Hetherington T (2004) Core terrestrial habitat of local populations of salamanders and wood frogs in agricultural landscapes. Biological Conservation 120:399–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rittenhouse T, Semlitsch R (2007) Distribution of amphibians in terrestrial habitat surrounding wetlands. Wetlands 27:153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schloegel L, Picco A, Kilpatrick A, Davies A, Hyatt A, Daszak P (2009) Magnitude of the US trade in amphibians and presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and ranavirus infection in imported North American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). Biological Conservation 142:1420–1426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Semlitsch R (2002) Critical elements for biologically-based recovery plans of aquatic-breeding amphibians. Conservation Biology 16:619–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Semlitsch R (2008a) Moving wetland mitigation towards conservation banking. National Wetlands Newsletter 30:16Google Scholar
  53. Semlitsch R (2008b) Differentiating migration and dispersal processes for pond-breeding amphibians. The Journal of Wildlife Management 72:260–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Semlitsch R, Bodie J (1998) Are small, isolated wetlands expendable? Conservation Biology 12:1129–1133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Semlitsch R, Bodie J (2003) Biological criteria for buffer zones around wetlands and riparian habitats for amphibians and reptiles. Conservation Biology 17:1219–1228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Semlitsch R, Scott D, Pechmann J, Gibbons J (1996) Structure and dynamics of an amphibian community: evidence from a 16-year study of a natural pond. In: Cody M, Smallwood J (eds) Long-term studies of vertebrate communities. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  57. Shulse C (2010) Building better wetlands for amphibians: investigating the roles of engineered wetland features and mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) on amphibian abundance and reproductive success. Dissertation, University of MissouriGoogle Scholar
  58. Simon J, Snodgrass J, Casey R, Sparling D (2009) Spatial correlates of amphibian use of constructed wetlands in an urban landscape. Landscape Ecology 24:361–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Skelly D (1995) A behavioral trade-off and its consequences for the distribution of Pseudacris treefrog larvae. Ecology 76(1):150–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Skelly D (1996) Pond drying, predators, and the distribution of Psuedacris tadpoles. Copeia 1996:599–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Skelly D, Werner E, Cortwright S (1999) Long-term distributional dynamics of a Michigan amphibian assemblage. Ecology 80:2326–2337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Snodgrass J, Komoroski M, Bryan A Jr, Burger J (2000) Relationships among isolated wetland size, hydroperiod, and amphibian species richness: implications for wetland regulations. Conservation Biology 14:414–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Stratman D (2000) Using micro and macrotopography in wetland restoration. Indiana Biology technical note 1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  64. Stuart S, Chanson J, Cox N, Young B, Rodrigues A, Fischman D, Waller R (2004) Status and trends of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide. Science 306:1783–1786CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Tweedie M (1984) An index which distinguishes between some important exponential families. In: Ghosh J, Roy J (eds) Statistics: Applications and new directions. Proceedings of the Indian Statistical Institute Golden Jubilee International Conference. Indian Statistical Institute, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  66. Wake D, Vredenburg V (2008) Are we in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? A view from the world of amphibians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105:11466–11473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Walls S (1995) Differential vulnerability to predation and refuge use in competing larval salamanders. Oecologia 101:86–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walston L, Mullin S (2007) Responses of a pond-breeding amphibian community to the experimental removal of predatory fish. American Midland Naturalist 157:63–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Werner E, McPeek M (1994) Direct and indirect effects of predators on two anuran species along an environmental gradient. Ecology 75:1368–1382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Williams B (2008) A multi-scale investigation of ecologically relevant effects of agricultural runoff on amphibians. Dissertation, University of MissouriGoogle Scholar
  71. Willis Y, Moyle D, Baskett T (1956) Emergence, breeding, hibernation, movements, and transformation of the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, in Missouri. Copeia 1956:30–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher D. Shulse
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Raymond D. Semlitsch
    • 2
  • Kathleen M. Trauth
    • 3
  • Arnold D. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Missouri Department of TransportationHannibalUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations