Connectivity of fragmented amphibian populations in a Neotropical landscape Dissertation

thesis or dissertation chair

fiu authors

  • Nowakowski, Aaron J

abstract

  • A high proportion of amphibian species are threatened with extinction globally, and habitat loss and degradation are the most frequently implicated causes. Rapid deforestation for the establishment of agricultural production is a primary driver of habitat loss in tropical zones where amphibian diversity is highest. Land-cover change affects native assemblages, in part, through the reduction of habitat area and the reduction of movement among remnant populations. Decreased gene flow contributes to loss of genetic diversity, which limits the ability of local populations to respond to further environmental changes. The focus of this dissertation is on the degree to which common land uses in Sarapiquí, Costa Rica impede the movement of two common amphibian species. First, I used field experiments, including displacement trials, and a behavioral landscape ecology framework to investigate the resistance of pastures to movement of Oophaga pumilio. Results from experiments demonstrate that pastures do impede movement of O. pumilio relative to forest. Microclimatic effects on movement performance as well as limited perceptual ranges likely contribute to reduced return rates through pastures. Next, I linked local processes to landscape scale estimates of resistance. I conducted experiments to measure habitat-specific costs to movement for O. pumilio and Craugastor bransfodrii, and then used experimental results to parameterize connectivity models. Model validation indicated highest support for resistance estimates generated from responses to land-use specific microclimates for both species and to predator encounters for O. pumilio. Finally, I used abundance and experiment-derived resistance estimates to analyze the effects of prevalent land uses on population genetic structure of the two focal species. While O. pumilio did not exhibit a strong response to landscape heterogeneity and was primarily structured by distances among sites, C. bransfordii genetic variation was explained by resistance estimates from abundance and experiment data. Collectivity, this work demonstrates that common land uses can offer different levels of resistance to amphibian movements in Sarapiquí and illustrates the value of investigating local scales processes to inform interpretation of landscape-scale patterns.

publication date

  • May 6, 2014

keywords

  • Costa Rica
  • amphibians
  • dispersal
  • frog
  • gene flow
  • genetic structure
  • land use
  • neotropics
  • pasture
  • resistance

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)