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Population persistence often depends on functional connectivity for animals that transit multiple vegetation types to acquire resources, particularly for dispersers navigating a landscape matrix fragmented by agriculture, forestry, or urbanization. For many pool-breeding amphibians, population viability depends on the ability of juveniles to locate and reach suitable habitat in the terrestrial matrix. Thus, identifying the scale and orientation of movements is necessary to predict the consequences of landscape configuration for populations. We conducted three experiments to evaluate if different vegetation types alter the behavior of post-metamorphic wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus). We measured the: (1) fine-scale movement (velocity, latency, path length, net displacement, path tortuosity, and orientation) of individuals (n = 150) released on five substrates (asphalt, corn, forest leaf litter, hay, lawn); (2) directionality of frogs (n = 168) released at different distances from forest in two open-cover types (lawns, hayfields); and (3) willingness of frogs (n = 240) to enter three land-cover types (asphalt, lawn, forest) when released within artificial refugia islands at different distances from forest. Using fluorescent powder, we mapped 318 movement paths and performance differed. Frogs demonstrated straighter paths, and greater net movements, path lengths, and velocities through treatments with lower structural complexity (asphalt > lawn > corn > forest leaf litter > hay). Frogs also exhibited forest-oriented directionality in asphalt, lawn, and corn but random orientation in forest control and hay. The willingness of individuals to leave a refugia island was lowest on asphalt (12% of released frogs), moderate on lawn (40%), and very high in forest (90%). Overall, results indicate that the quality of nonforest matrix may influence the ability of frogs to traverse open cover and orient toward forest from distances of ≥40–55 m. Thus, it is inaccurate to assume movement performance is uniform across all open-matrix types, an important distinction because many landscape-population models use expert-based values that are a one-size- fits- all measure for open cover. Our study provides field-based, mechanistic approximations of juvenile movement that can be useful for predicting how matrix composition and configuration might be managed to maintain or restore functional connectivity.
Cline, Brittany and Hunter Jr., Malcolm L., "Movement in the matrix: Substrates and distance to forest edge affect postmetamorphic movements of a forest amphibian" (2016). Publications. 27.
Cline, B.B., & Hunter, M.L. Jr. Movement in the matrix: Substrates and distance to forest edge affect postmetamorphic movements of a forest amphibian. Ecosphere.
© 2016 Ecological Society of America
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