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Conserv Biol. 2008 Oct;22(5):1205-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01015.x. Epub 2008 Aug 19.

Demographic consequences of terrestrial habitat loss for pool-breeding amphibians: predicting extinction risks associated with inadequate size of buffer zones.

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1
Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, 105 Tucker Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. eharper@esf.edu

Abstract

Much of the biodiversity associated with isolated wetlands requires aquatic and terrestrial habitat to maintain viable populations. Current federal wetland regulations in the United States do not protect isolated wetlands or extend protection to surrounding terrestrial habitat. Consequently, some land managers, city planners, and policy makers at the state and local levels are making an effort to protect these wetland and neighboring upland habitats. Balancing human land-use and habitat conservation is challenging, and well-informed land-use policy is hindered by a lack of knowledge of the specific risks of varying amounts of habitat loss. Using projections of wood frog (Rana sylvatica) and spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) populations, we related the amount of high-quality terrestrial habitat surrounding isolated wetlands to the decline and risk of extinction of local amphibian populations. These simulations showed that current state-level wetland regulations protecting 30 m or less of surrounding terrestrial habitat are inadequate to support viable populations of pool-breeding amphibians. We also found that species with different life-history strategies responded differently to the loss and degradation of terrestrial habitat. The wood frog, with a short life span and high fecundity, was most sensitive to habitat loss and isolation, whereas the longer-lived spotted salamander with lower fecundity was most sensitive to habitat degradation that lowered adult survival rates. Our model results demonstrate that a high probability of local amphibian population persistence requires sufficient terrestrial habitat, the maintenance of habitat quality, and connectivity among local populations. Our results emphasize the essential role of adequate terrestrial habitat to the maintenance of wetland biodiversity and ecosystem function and offer a means of quantifying the risks associated with terrestrial habitat loss and degradation.

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