Influence of demography and environment on persistence in toad populations
Product Type:Journal Article
Author(s):Brad A. L., R. A. Schorr, S. C. Schneider, and E. L. Muths
Suggested Citation:Brad A. L., R. A. Schorr, S. C. Schneider, and E. L. Muths. 2016. Influence of demography and environment on persistence in toad populations. Journal of Wildlife Management 80: 1256-1266. DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21118
Effective conservation of rare species requires an understanding of how potential threats affect population dynamics. Unfortunately, information about population demographics prior to threats (i.e., baseline data) is lacking for many species. Perturbations, caused by climate change, disease, or other stressors can lead to population declines and heightened conservation concerns. Boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) have undergone rangewide declines due mostly to the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), with only a few sizable populations remaining in the southern Rocky Mountains, USA, that are disease-free. Despite the apparent region-wide occurrence of Bd, our focal populations in central Colorado were disease free over a 14-year capture-mark-recapture study until the recent discovery of Bd at one of the sites. We used recapture data and the Pradel reverse-time model to assess the influence of environmental and site-specific conditions on survival and recruitment. We then forecast changes in the toad populations with 2 growth models; one using an average lambda value to initiate the projection, and one using the most recent value to capture potential effects of the incursion of disease into the system. Adult survival was consistently high at the 3 sites, whereas recruitment was more variable and markedly low at 1 site. We found that active season moisture, active season length, and breeding shallows were important factors in estimating recruitment. Population growth models indicated a slight increase at 1 site but decreasing trends at the 2 other sites, possibly influenced by low recruitment. Insight into declining species management can be gained from information on survival and recruitment and how site-specific environmental factors influence these demographic parameters. Our data are particularly useful because they provide baseline data on demographics in populations before a disease outbreak and enhance our ability to detect changes in population parameters potentially caused by the disease.