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Interactive effects of roads and weather on juvenile amphibian movements

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We investigated whether paved roads adjacent to 16 ponds acted as barriers to movements of juvenile wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus), green frogs (Lithobates clamitans), mole salamanders (Ambystoma laterale, A. maculatum), and American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) in eastern New Brunswick, Canada. Using pitfall traps and drift fences, we recorded captures of juveniles dispersing away from their natal ponds into forest habitat (pondside fences) or across the road (roadside fences) over two field seasons. To explain variations in abundance of dispersers among sites, we measured several road-associated variables including traffic intensity and roadside habitat structure, pond quality, and weather variables. We estimated the activity patterns (across 4-day periods) and seasonal abundance of juveniles in transit between ponds and terrestrial habitat using generalized linear mixed models. For all groups, activity across 4-day periods increased with either total precipitation or minimum air temperature. However, road-associated variables were also important for some species. Mole salamander activity was lowest next to roads. Wood frog activity increased with minimum air temperature, but the effect was weakest at roadside fences (minimum air temperature × fence position interaction). Seasonal abundance of most groups varied with habitat structure or pond hydroperiod. Green frog abundance decreased with increasing traffic intensity, but abundance was higher at roadside fences than pondside fences. In contrast, wood frog seasonal abundance tended to be lowest at roadside fences. We conclude that road-associated disturbances are detectable at fine temporal scales and that amphibian responses to such variables can be influenced by weather variables.

Affiliations: 1: 1Chaire de recherche du Canada en conservation des paysages, Département de biologie, Université de Moncton, Moncton, Nouveau-Brunswick E1A 3E9, Canada ; 2: 2Centre d’étude de la forêt, Département des sciences appliquées, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda, Québec J9X 5E4, Canada

*Corresponding author; email: marc.mazerolle@uqat.ca
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2012-01-01
2017-10-18

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