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Habitat and landscape characteristics underlying anuran community structure along an urban–rural gradient

Pillsbury, Finn C., Miller, James R.
Ecological applications 2008 v.18 no.5 pp. 1107-1118
Anura, amphibians, breeding, community structure, correspondence analysis, habitat fragmentation, habitat preferences, habitats, highlands, landscapes, surveys, urban areas, urbanization, wetlands, Iowa
Urbanization has been cited as an important factor in worldwide amphibian declines, and although recent work has illustrated the important influence of broad‐scale ecological patterns and processes on amphibian populations, little is known about the factors structuring amphibian communities in urban landscapes. We therefore examined amphibian community responses to wetland habitat availability and landscape characteristics along an urban–rural gradient in central Iowa, USA, a region experiencing rapid suburban growth. We conducted call surveys at 61 wetlands to estimate anuran calling activity, and quantified wetland habitat structure and landscape context. We used canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) to examine patterns in anuran community structure and identify the most important variables associated with those patterns. Urban density at the landscape scale had a significant negative influence on overall anuran abundance and diversity. While every species exhibited a decrease in abundance with increasing urban density, this pattern was especially pronounced for species requiring post‐breeding upland habitats. Anurans most affected by urbanization were those associated with short hydroperiods, early breeding activity, and substantial upland habitat use. We suggest that broad‐scale landscape fragmentation is an important factor underlying anuran community structure in this region, possibly due to limitations on the accessibility of otherwise suitable habitat in fragmented urban landscapes. This study underscores the importance of a regional approach to amphibian conservation in urban and urbanizing areas; in fragmented landscapes, a network of interconnected wetland and upland habitats may be more likely to support a successful, diverse anuran community than will isolated sites.