Campus News

NSF funds SREL amphibian study

Researchers at UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the University of Missouri, the University of Maine and the State University of New York have received funding from the National Science Foundation to investigate amphibian population dynamics in relation to forest alteration and fragmentation resulting from forest management practices.

As part of the Land Use Effects on Amphibian Populations Study, the researchers will conduct similar experiments in their respective regions over the next five years. In the first year (2004), experimental arrays are being created at four wetlands in each region. Each experimental array is centered on an existing isolated or ephemeral wetland, with the terrestrial habitat adjacent to the wetland divided into four equal-sized quadrants six to 10 acres in size. Quadrants will be allowed to undergo succession in subsequent years, yielding the opportunity to follow changes in vegetation structure and amphibian responses over time.

“The experimental nature and replication of treatments and experiments at both local and regional scales provide an unprecedented opportunity to identify major factors affecting the persistence of amphibian populations, such as differences in life history among salamanders, frogs and toads,” says Whit Gibbons, an investigator on the project and a professor of ecology at SREL. “Also, because recent research is revealing the extent and importance of upland habitat use by amphibians, this study will focus on the responses of terrestrial life stages of pond-breeding amphibians to upland habitat alteration.”