Frog breeding in rain-fed wetlands after a period of severe drought: implications for predicting the impacts of climate change

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Abstract

Globally, rain-fed wetlands provide critical habitat for a wide range of amphibian species, however information on the use of rain-fed wetlands by Australian frog species is extremely limited. This study examined the distribution of frog breeding in rain-fed wetlands following the first significant rain event after a period of severe drought (2002-2009) in order to predict how frog communities may be affected in the future by changed climate. Tadpole communities along with vegetation and water quality variables were described in 35 rain-fed wetlands across the South West Slopes and Riverina bioregions of inland south-eastern Australia. In addition, weekly tadpole surveys were conducted in a subset of these wetlands to describe temporal patterns of occupancy. Despite the protracted dry period prior to this study 50% of the rain-fed wetlands surveyed contained tadpoles. However frog communities were species poor with only five species recorded. The majority of wetlands were dominated be a single species, Limnodynastes tasmaniensis which is also common within permanent waterbodies such as farm dams and irrigation infrastructure in both bioregions. Tadpoles of two burrowing species Limnodynastes interioris and Neobatrachus sudelli were restricted to a small number of wetlands mostly in the South West Slopes. The composition of tadpole communities changed over time, and Crinia parinsignifera was the only species that continued to breed over winter. The dominance of generalist species within rain-fed wetlands indicates that characteristics such as dispersal capability, flexibility in breeding times and the ability to utilise created habitats may be more important than burrowing ability and longevity when predicting vulnerability to climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalHydrobiologia
Volume708
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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