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Biological Criteria for Buffer Zones around Wetlands and Riparian Habitats for Amphibians and Reptiles

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Terrestrial habitats surrounding wetlands are critical to the management of natural resources. Although the protection of water resources from human activities such as agriculture, silviculture, and urban development is obvious, it is also apparent that terrestrial areas surrounding wetlands are core habitats for many semiaquatic species that depend on mesic ecotones to complete their life cycle. For purposes of conservation and management, it is important to define core habitats used by local breeding populations surrounding wetlands. Our objective was to provide an estimate of the biologically relevant size of core habitats surrounding wetlands for amphibians and reptiles. We summarize data from the literature on the use of terrestrial habitats by amphibians and reptiles associated with wetlands ( 19 frog and 13 salamander species representing 1363 individuals; 5 snake and 28 turtle species representing more than 2245 individuals ). Core terrestrial habitat ranged from 159 to 290 m for amphibians and from 127 to 289 m for reptiles from the edge of the aquatic site. Data from these studies also indicated the importance of terrestrial habitats for feeding, overwintering, and nesting, and, thus, the biological interdependence between aquatic and terrestrial habitats that is essential for the persistence of populations. The minimum and maximum values for core habitats, depending on the level of protection needed, can be used to set biologically meaningful buffers for wetland and riparian habitats. These results indicate that large areas of terrestrial habitat surrounding wetlands are critical for maintaining biodiversity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Biological Sciences, 105 Tucker Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211–7400, U.S.A., 2: Bodie Design Group, 507 Crooked Oak Drive, Pawleys Island, SC 29585, U.S.A.

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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