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Do Existing Constructed Ponds on Pelee Island, Ontario Match the Habitat Requirements of Endangered Ambystoma Larvae?

Abstract

Global loss of wetlands has significantly reduced the habitat available for amphibians. Various organizations now regularly construct wetlands to provide areas for amphibian reproduction and larval development. To support wetland taxa, including federally-endangered salamanders, numerous ponds have been constructed in Southern Ontario. We examine natural and constructed ponds to address three questions: 1) What environmental variables govern the presence of salamander larvae in ponds?, 2) What environmental variables predict relative abundance of salamander larvae?, and 3) Do constructed ponds match the habitat needs for salamander larvae as observed in natural ponds? Presence of larvae was associated with high canopy cover and crayfish burrow presence, whereas catch-per-unit-effort increased with the amount of leaf litter in the substrate and presence of submergent vegetation. Constructed ponds had less canopy cover, less leaf litter in the substrate, warmer water, and fewer contained submergent vegetation. Larvae were caught in only 33% of constructed ponds, and catch-per-unit-effort was ~4-10x lower than in natural ponds. Constructed ponds on Pelee Island therefore require additional restoration support or naturalization before they are of substantial conservation value to salamanders. Protecting natural breeding sites remains critical for amphibian conservation, as created ponds may not adequately alleviate the loss of this habitat.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Species at Risk Stewardship Fund for financial support. G. Smith, and personnel from Scales Nature Park assisted with field work. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Parks, Essex Region Conservation Authority, J. Ambrose, D. Kraus, and J. DeMarco provided land access. Research protocols were approved by Trent University Animal Care Committee, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Wildlife Animal Care Committee. Wildlife Scientific Collector’s Authorization No. 1092367. Endangered Species Act Confirmation of Registration ID: M-102-9225853169.

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Correspondence to Meghan Ward or Thomas J. Hossie.

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Ward, M., Hossie, T.J. Do Existing Constructed Ponds on Pelee Island, Ontario Match the Habitat Requirements of Endangered Ambystoma Larvae?. Wetlands 40, 2097–2108 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-020-01364-8

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Keywords

  • Amphibians
  • Habitat creation
  • Habitat suitability
  • Salamanders
  • Species-at-risk
  • Vernal pools