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Habitat selection in the Pampa de Achala toad, Bufo achalensis

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Habitat selection in adult and juvenile Bufo achalensis was studied at La Ciénaga Stream, Pampa de Achala, Central Argentina from December 1998 to October 2001. Habitat preference was evaluated by comparing the observed use of each habitat type with its availability. Juveniles were surveyed on 32 occasions between January 1999 and March 2001 using 13 permanent transects. The effect of cattle on larval survivorship was also evaluated. Most adult and juvenile B. achalensis occurred within 300 m of each side of the breeding site stream. No correlation was found between body size and distances moved. Juveniles and adults selected granite outcrops after the breeding season and avoided the heavily grazed areas. Adults also selected the stream and used tall tussock grassland in proportion to its availability. Juveniles used loose, flat, relatively small stones as shelters whilst adults used larger rocks. The presence of cattle at the breeding sites directly reduced larval survivorship by trampling, and indirectly through sediment deposition at the breeding sites resulting from increased stream bank erosion. The habitat preferences of B. achalensis suggest that long term cattle grazing also affects them adversely through deterioration of their transition habitat from tall tussock grassland to short sward. Future conservation management plans for B. achalensis must include the protection of the breeding sites and the surrounding terrestrial area if they are to be effective.


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