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1 February 2009 Differential Responses of Postmetamorphic Amphibians to Cattle Grazing in Wetlands
Elizabeth C. Burton, Matthew J. Gray, A. Chandler Schmutzer, Debra L. Miller
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Global amphibian declines have been linked to various anthropogenic land uses. Recent studies have documented negative impacts of cropland agriculture and deforestation on amphibians; however, few have examined potential impacts of cattle grazing in wetlands on resident amphibians. Therefore, we measured differences in number of captures and body size of postmetamorphic amphibians, egg mass abundance, and shoreline vegetation structure and composition between 4 wetlands with direct cattle access and 4 wetlands from which cattle were excluded on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, USA. We captured amphibians at wetlands from March to August 2005 and 2006 using pitfall traps. Number of green frog (Rana clamitans) metamorphs captured at nonaccess wetlands was 2.5 times and 9.8 times greater than at wetlands with cattle access in 2005 and 2006, respectively. However, number of American toads (Bufo americanus) captured was 68 times and 76 times greater at cattle-access wetlands in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In general, metamorph body size was negatively correlated with species-specific capture rate. We detected no differences in egg mass abundance between cattle land-use types. Height, percent horizontal cover, and percent vertical cover of shoreline vegetation were 74%, 25%, and 84% greater, respectively, in nonaccess wetlands in 2005; vegetation trends were similar in 2006. Our results suggest that cattle impact amphibian populations but effects vary by species. Differences in postmetamorphic capture rate may be related to less emergent vegetation at cattle-access wetlands. Although body size differed between land uses for metamorphs, these trends probably were short-lived, because we did not detect differences in juvenile and adult body size between land uses for most species. Based on our findings, we suggest that fencing cattle from wetlands may be a prudent conservation strategy for some amphibian species (e.g., ranids), whereas other species (e.g., bufonids) may benefit from controlled grazing.

Elizabeth C. Burton, Matthew J. Gray, A. Chandler Schmutzer, and Debra L. Miller "Differential Responses of Postmetamorphic Amphibians to Cattle Grazing in Wetlands," Journal of Wildlife Management 73(2), 269-277, (1 February 2009).
Published: 1 February 2009

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