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DRYING RATES OF EPHEMERAL WETLANDS: IMPLICATIONS FOR BREEDING AMPHIBIANS

Ephemeral wetlands provide breeding habitat for many amphibian species, and wetland hydrology plays a crucial role in determining amphibian breeding success. We empirically evaluated recession rates (water level declines) in wetlands inhabited by the endangered Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma bishopi). High recession rates are potentially problematic for flatwoods salamanders because of a long development time, including metamorphosis usually occurring from March¬–May when groundwater losses are combined with high evapotranspiration rates. To evaluate magnitude, variability, and drivers of recession rates, we monitored water levels in 33 wetlands in the Florida panhandle from 2012–2015 and examined recession rates during the flatwoods salamander reproductive period. After controlling for the effects of specific yield, standardized recession rates were, on average, 3.9 times daily potential evapotranspiration rates, suggesting that groundwater fluxes are an important driver of water level declines in these wetlands. Standardized recession rates were variable across the landscape and increased with decreasing wetland size, indicating that larger wetlands are often hydrologically more suitable for flatwoods salamanders. This work points to these and other controls on wetland recession rates and their role in regulating amphibian reproductive success.

Houston Chandler (Primary Presenter/Author), Virginia Tech, houstonc@vt.edu;


Daniel McLaughlin ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Virginia Tech University, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, mclaugd@vt.edu;


Thomas Gorman ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Virginia Tech, gormant@vt.edu;


Kevin McGuire ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Virginia Tech, kevin.mcguire@vt.edu;


Jeffrey Feaga ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Virginia Tech, feaga05@vt.edu;


Carola Haas ( Co-Presenter/Co-Author), Virginia Tech, cahaas@vt.edu;