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An Experimental Investigation of Landscape Resistance of Forest versus Old-Field Habitats to Emigrating Juvenile Amphibians

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We used an experimental approach to investigate the effects of landscape composition on the initial dispersal success of juvenile amphibians. Larval amphibians—spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), small-mouthed salamander (A. texanum), and American toad (  Bufo americanus )—were added to artificial pools in four dispersal arrays on forest edges. Each array consisted of a pool surrounded by a circular drift fence with pitfall traps and two 2.5 × 50 m enclosures (runs) extending into forest and old-field habitat. Juveniles captured at the circular fences were individually marked and released into either field or forest runs. We determined initial distance, initial rate, total distance, and net distance moved by juveniles in the field versus forest from recaptures in the runs. We also conducted 24-hour dehydration trials to compare the rates of evaporative water loss by spotted and small-mouthed salamanders in field and forest. Initial orientation of spotted salamanders and toads was significantly biased toward forest. Orientation of small-mouthed salamanders did not differ significantly from random expectations. The avoidance of open-canopy habitat by juvenile American toads in particular indicates that predictions of dispersal behavior based on adult habitat use may be misleading. Spotted salamanders moved almost four times farther and toads more than three times farther into the forest than into the field, and recapture rates of both species were much lower in the field. We attribute the lower recapture rates and shorter distances moved in the field to higher mortality due to desiccation or an abundance of predators. Juvenile spotted and small-mouthed salamanders experienced greater evaporative water loss in the field. Our data on movement behavior and dehydration rates suggest that old-field habitats offer greater landscape resistance to dispersing juveniles of some species. Thus, forest fragmentation is likely to reduce dispersal rates between local populations of these three species, with potentially negative consequences for population persistence in altered landscapes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Division of Biological Sciences, 105 Tucker Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, U.S.A.

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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