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Tuesday, April 10 • 10:45am - 11:00am
AQUATIC, COASTAL AND MARINE ANIMALS: Integrating Historical, Ecological, and Social Data to Understand Patterns of Amphibian Occupancy and Habitat Availability in an Agroecosystem

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AUTHORS: Timothy M. Swartz*, Jenna R. Mattes, Jaime J. Coon, James R. Miller – Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ABSTRACT: Farm ponds are ubiquitous in agricultural landscapes worldwide. Over the last century, about two million farm ponds have been built across the Central US, representing a fundamental change in the composition of landscapes in the region. While these ponds are primarily designed to control soil erosion and provide water for livestock, they also play an important role in conserving biodiversity. Particularly in landscapes with few natural wetlands, ponds may serve as critical refuges for native species, including amphibians. However, because the majority of ponds are privately-owned, determining their capacity to support amphibians requires accounting for the management decisions of landowners. Landowners can impact the ecology and function of ponds in several ways, including by introducing predatory gamefish for recreational fishing, impeding the growth of wetland vegetation, and periodically renovating aging ponds to restore their agricultural function. Our goal was to assess the potential for farm ponds to provide habitat for amphibians in the eastern Great Plains. We identified habitat associations of amphibians through field surveys and occupancy modeling and analyzed historical aerial imagery to determine patterns of pond construction and renovation. We also assessed the perceptions of landowners through a mail-back survey. Amphibians preferred ponds that had extensive cover of wetland vegetation, lacked fish, and were situated within or near woodlands. Ponds built before 1960 were more likely to exhibit these features. However, more than half of pre-1960 ponds had been renovated, suggesting that high-quality amphibian habitats have been lost over time. Furthermore, many landowners considered predatory gamefish more important than native amphibians, indicating a potential conflict between the conservation and recreation value of ponds. Overall, these results reveal that while farm ponds may provide suitable breeding habitat for amphibians, landscape-scale conservation of these species will require acknowledging the human values and attitudes that drive pond management decisions.

Tuesday April 10, 2018 10:45am - 11:00am CDT
LaSalle 1 (7th Floor)