Effects of habitat instability on toad populations

Submitted by editor on 13 November 2019.Get the paper!

Most wildlife populations live in habitats that show variation in biotic and abiotic conditions across space and time. This means any given species needs to find ways to deal with such variation in environmental conditions (e.g., local adaptation, phenotypic plasticity). This can lead to variation in life history characteristics among populations of the same species.

Here we describe spatial variation in the life-history characteristics in a metapopulation of the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata). Some populations live in habitats where ponds are temporally stable; the water level and hydroperiod in these ponds do not vary much over time. Other populations live in habitats with dramatic fluctuations in water level and pond hydroperiod.

Our analysis of mark-recapture data showed that the life-history characteristics differed between stable and variable sites. Populations in variable ponds had higher survival and higher recruitment than populations living in stable ponds and temporal variance of these vital rates was higher in variables sites. Toads in variable habitats skipped breeding opportunities more often than the ones in stable habitats.  

Overall, our results showed that populations in variable habitats had slower life histories than those in stable habitats.

Read the full paper: "Habitat‐driven life history variation in an amphibian metapopulation" - Cayuela et al. 2019 - Oikos 128(9)

Written by: Benedikt R. Schmidt

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