Date of Award

12-2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Aram J.K. Calhoun

Second Committee Member

William E. Glanz

Third Committee Member

Cynthia S. Loftin

Abstract

In order to maintain pond-breeding amphibian species richness, it is important to understand how both natural and anthropogenic disturbances affect species assemblages and individual species distributions both at the scale of individual ponds and at a larger landscape scale. The goal of this project was to investigate what characteristics of ponds and the surrounding wetland landscape were most effective in predicting pond-breeding species richness and the individual occurrence of wood frog (Rana sylvatica), bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) and pickerel frog (Rana palustris) breeding sites in a beaver-modified landscape and how this landscape has changed over time. The wetland landscape of Acadia National Park was historically modified by the natural disturbance cycles of beaver (Castor cazadensis), and since their reintroduction to the island in 1921, beaver have played a large role in creating and maintaining palustrine wetlands. In 2000 and 2001, I studied pond-breeding amphibian assemblages at 71 palustrine wetlands in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. I determined breeding presence of 7 amphibian species and quantified 15 variables describing local pond conditions and characteristics of the wetland landscape. I developed a priori models to predict sites with high amphibian species and used model selection with Akaike's Information Criterion (AIC) to identify important variables. Single species models were also developed to predict wood frog, bullfrog and pickerel frogs breeding presence. The variables for wetland connectivity by stream corridors and the presence of beaver disturbance were the most effective variables to predict sites with high amphibian richness. Wood frog breeding was best predicted by local scale variables describing temporary, fishless wetlands and the absence of active beaver disturbance. Abandoned beaver sites provided wood frog breeding habitat (70%) in a similar proportion to that found in non beaver-influenced sites (79%). In contrast, bullfrog breeding presence was limited to active beaver wetlands with fish and permanent water, and 80% of breeding sites were large (≥2ha in size). Pickerel frog breeding site selection was predicted best by the connectivity of sites in the landscape by stream corridors. Models including the presence of beaver disturbance, greater wetland perimeter and greater depth were included in the confidence set of pickerel frog models but showed considerably less support. Analysis of historic aerial photographs showed an 89% increase in the total number of ponded wetlands available in the landscape between the years of 1944 and 1997. Beaver colonization generally converted forested wetlands and riparian areas to open water and emergent wetlands. Temporal colonization of beaver wetlands favored large sites low in the watersheds and sites that were impounded later were generally smaller, higher in the watershed, and more likely to be abandoned. These results suggest that beaver have not only increased the number of available breeding sites in the landscape for pond-breeding amphibians, but the resulting mosaic of active and abandoned beaver wetlands also provides suitable breeding habitat for species with differing habitat requirements.

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