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Winter microhabitat selection of a threatened pond amphibian in constructed urban wetlands

Garnham, James I., Stockwell, Michelle P., Pollard, Carla J., Pickett, Evan J., Bower, Deborah S., Clulow, John, Mahony, Michael J.
Austral ecology 2015 v.40 no.7 pp. 816-826
Litoria, breeding, females, frogs, habitat destruction, habitat preferences, hydraulic structures, males, microhabitats, overwintering, predation, predators, radio, risk, summer, wetlands, winter
Mitigating the threat of habitat loss requires actions such as restoring and creating new habitat. In order to effectively achieve this, species habitat requirements and use patterns need to be understood. While many studies have been conducted on the habitat choice of species, these generally focused on habitat use during periods of high activity and detection probability without considering seasonal shifts in habitat use. Understanding habitat selection by frogs during the winter season of low activity may be crucial since it may differ from that used during the summer and may be overlooked as important for population success. We describe the microhabitat use of the threatened green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) using radio tracking methods during winter when detection is low and knowledge is limited. We followed 26 individuals between May and July, 2011 to determine whether they selected specific overwintering microhabitats and related this to levels of individual exposure to predators, distance from the edge of the water and temperature of microhabitats. We found that overwintering bell frogs inhabited reeds and rock gabions more frequently than expected and that females used a reduced subset of microhabitats compared to males. Additionally, microhabitats used were more likely to conceal an individual from view, and the majority of overwintering sites were located within 5 m of the edge of the water which may be important for reducing the risk of predation and desiccation. Rock gabions had significantly warmer (1.2°C–1.8°C) mean temperatures than the other microhabitats used. The information presented here can be used in habitat creation and reintroduction programmes to provide habitat which is suitable during both the breeding and non‐breeding season for the conservation of other populations.