Understanding anuran community dynamics in temporary wetlands: the interaction and importance of landscape and biotic processes

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Daniel Childers

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kimberly Babbitt

Third Advisor's Name

Bradley Bennett

Fourth Advisor's Name

Joel Heinen

Fifth Advisor's Name

Joel Trexler

Date of Defense



The major objective of this study was to determine the relative importance of landscape factors, local abiotic factors, and biotic interactions in influencing tadpole community structure in temporary wetlands. I also examined the influence of agricultural activities in South-central Florida by comparing tadpole communities in native prairie wetlands (a relatively unmodified habitat) at the Kissimmee Prairie Sanctuary (KPS) to tadpole communities in three agriculturally modified habitats found at MacArthur Agro- Ecology Research Center (MAERC). Environmental characteristics were measured in 24 isolated wetlands, and tadpoles were sampled using throw-traps and dipnets during the 1999 wet season (June - October). Landscape characteristics were expected to predominately influence all aspects of community structure because anurans associated with temporary wetland systems are likely to exist as metapopulations. Both landscape characteristics (wetland proximity to nearest woodland and the amount of woodland surrounding the wetland) and biotic interactions (fish predation) had the largest influence on tadpole community structure. Predatory fish influenced tadpole communities more than expected due to the ubiquity of wetlands, lack of topographic relief, and dispersal abilities of several fish species. Differences in tadpole community structure among habitat types were attributed to differences in woodland attributes and susceptibility to fish colonization. Furthermore, agricultural modification of prairie habitats in South-central Florida may benefit amphibian communities, particularly woodland-dwelling species that are unable to coexist with predatory fish. From a conservation standpoint, temporary wetlands proximal to woodland areas and isolated from permanent water sources appear to be most important to amphibians. In addition, the high tadpole densities attained in these wetlands suggest that these wetlands serve as biological hotspots within the landscape, and their benefits extend into the adjacent terrestrial matrix. Further research efforts are needed to quantify the biological productivity of these systems and determine spatial dynamics of anurans in surrounding terrestrial habitats.



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