Martin Westgate

Science Advisor
Atlas of Living Australia

Visiting Fellow
Fenner School of Environment & Society
Australian National University

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Limited influence of stream networks on the terrestrial movements of three wetland-dependent frog species.

MJ Westgate, DA Driscoll & DB Lindenmayer (2012) Biological Conservation 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.04.030

First published 2012-06-29


Quantifying functional connectivity is essential for understanding factors that limit or promote animal dispersal in fragmented landscapes. Topography is a major factor influencing the movement behavior of many animal species, and therefore the extent of functional connectivity between habitat patches. For pond-breeding frogs, areas of low topographic relief (such as streams or drainage lines) offer damp microhabitats that can facilitate movement through otherwise dry landscapes. However, the extent of topographic bias of frog movements has rarely been quantified. We used a replicated study to compare captures in high- and low-relief transects, for three species from a pond-breeding frog community in southeastern Australia. We captured frogs significantly more often on low-relief transects. However, capture rates decreased with increasing distance from water at similar rates on both high-relief and low-relief transects, and we observed few differences between adult and juvenile movements. Our results suggest that although low-relief drainage lines are important for the pond-breeding frogs in question, ecologists and landscape managers should not discount the role of high-relief locations. Because low-relief drainage lines represent a low proportion of the pond margin, >90% of movements are likely to occur across high-relief locations. Therefore, for the species that we studied, buffer zones designed to conserve only hydrological networks would provide insufficient protection of frequently used pond margins, while drainage lines are unlikely to act as vital networks facilitating connectivity between breeding ponds. Our study suggests that movement across slopes may be most important for facilitating functional connectivity.

Article attributes

Theme: applied_ecology
Type: empirical