Masters Thesis

The effects of conservation programs on amphibians of the Prairie Pothole Region's glaciated plain

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency have been required by the Office of Management and Budget to quantify the effects of the conservation programs they administer. For example, they are currently examining the influence of the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program on various ecological services including biodiversity, carbon sequestration, sediment reduction, and water quality improvement. In response to these reporting requirements and the conservation community’s concern for amphibian declines in the Great Plains of North America, I conducted this study to assess the effect of land-use change on amphibian species richness and occupancy of seasonal wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region’s Glaciated Plain. In the summers of 2005 and 2006, I used three survey techniques (automated call surveys, trapping with aquatic funnel traps, and visual encounter surveys) to detect eight amphibian species at 40 seasonal wetlands. I partitioned my study by land-use (farmed, restored, and natural) and spatially distributed my three study sites to capture natural ecological gradients of the Glaciated Plains. I found amphibian species richness to vary by study site location and wetland land-use. Similarly, I found that probability of occupancy of amphibian species varied by study site location and(or) wetland land-use. In general, I found that farmed wetlands negatively impacted amphibians in seasonal wetlands. More specifically, farmed wetlands that had been tile drained were of less value to amphibians than farmed wetlands drained with open ditches. My study indicates that restored and natural seasonal wetlands provide comparable habitat for most amphibian species inhabiting seasonal wetlands. My results suggest that the restoration efforts of federally funded conservation programs have largely been successful in providing suitable habitat for most amphibian species utilizing seasonal wetlands. Hence, the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program are important in the conservation of amphibians in the Prairie Pothole Region’s Glaciated Plain.