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Winter snowfall determines the occupancy of northern prairie wetlands by tadpoles of the Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)

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In the northern plains of North America, the wetland breeding habitat of amphibians and their populations could be reduced by a change in climate that included decreased precipitation. To test this hypothesis, relative abundance of late-stage tadpoles of the Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus (LeConte, 1825)) was monitored from 1997 to 2010 during a wet–dry–wet cycle in 29 wetlands distributed throughout central Saskatchewan, Canada. The wetlands were dry for up to 7 consecutive years, and for a mean of 3.8 consecutive years. Consequently, tadpole occupancy of the wetlands was reduced to less than 40% for 5 consecutive years and none of the wetlands had tadpoles during the severe drought of 2001 and 2002. However, the drought had no observable long-term effect on either tadpole occupancy of wetlands or tadpole abundance. In 2007, 93% of the wetlands supported tadpoles, and in 2008 the highest mean relative abundance of tadpoles was recorded. Tadpole occupancy of wetlands was related to winter and spring precipitation (R 2 = 0.84) with 67% of long-term variation in occupancy related to snowfall from November to February and 17% related to rainfall from March to June. Less than 45 mm of winter precipitation for 6 consecutive years would probably cause regional extinction of populations of the Wood Frog.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Environment Canada, Room 300 Park Plaza, 2365 Albert Street, Regina, SK S4P 4K1, Canada. 2: Department of Statistics, University of Manitoba, 338 Machray Hall, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada. 3: Department of Statistics, University of Wyoming, 1000 E. University, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.

Publication date: November 26, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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