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Influence of instream habitat and water chemistry on amphibians in channelized agricultural headwater streams

Mark A. Jordan, Abel J. Castañeda, Peter C. Smiley, Robert B. Gillespie, Douglas R. Smith, Kevin W. King
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2016 v.230 pp. 87-97
acetochlor, agricultural watersheds, amphibians, channelization, dissolved oxygen, habitats, hydrochemistry, nutrients, phosphorus, population structure, principal component analysis, simazine, streams, tile drainage, Canada, Europe, Indiana, Ohio
The widespread use of stream channelization and subsurface tile drainage for removing water from agricultural fields has led to the development of numerous channelized agricultural headwater streams within agricultural watersheds of the Midwestern United States, Canada, and Europe. Channelized agricultural headwater streams have been documented to serve as habitat for amphibians, but information on amphibian habitat relationships within these streams is lacking and needed for developing effective conservation strategies. We quantified instream habitat, water chemistry, and sampled amphibians from seven sites in three channelized streams in Cedar Creek, Indiana in 2008 and 2009 and five sites in five channelized streams in Upper Big Walnut Creek, Ohio in 2009. We conducted an indirect gradient analysis involving the use of principal component analysis and generalized linear mixed effect model analysis to determine which variables had the greatest influence on amphibian community and population structure. Overall, amphibian community and population structure was most strongly correlated with water chemistry rather than instream habitat within channelized agricultural headwater streams in Indiana and Ohio. Eleven of 12 amphibian response variables were most strongly correlated with either a water chemistry gradient of nitrate+nitrite and acetochlor, a gradient of total nitrogen and ammonia, or a gradient of simazine and total phosphorus. Only one amphibian response variable was most strongly correlated with an instream habitat gradient of dissolved oxygen and water depth. Our results suggest that conservation strategies that target reductions of nutrients and herbicides will provide the greatest benefits for amphibians within channelized agricultural headwater streams.