Comparing population patterns to processes: Abundance and survival of a forest salamander following habitat degradation

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Abstract

Habitat degradation resulting from anthropogenic activities poses immediate and prolonged threats to biodiversity, particularly among declining amphibians. Many studies infer amphibian response to habitat degradation by correlating patterns in species occupancy or abundance with environmental effects, often without regard to the demographic processes underlying these patterns. We evaluated how retention of vertical green trees (CANOPY) and coarse woody debris (CWD) influenced terrestrial salamander abundance and apparent survival in recently clearcut forests. Estimated abundance of unmarked salamanders was positively related to CANOPY (βCanopy = 0.21 (0.02-1.19; 95% CI), but not CWD (βCWD = 0.11 (-0.13-0.35) within 3,600 m 2 sites, whereas estimated abundance of unmarked salamanders was not related to CANOPY (βCanopy = -0.01 (-0.21-0.18) or CWD (βCWD = -0.02 (-0.23-0.19) for 9 m2 enclosures. In contrast, apparent survival of marked salamanders within our enclosures over 1 month was positively influenced by both CANOPY and CWD retention (βCanopy = 0.73 (0.27-1.19; 95% CI) and βCWD = 1.01 (0.53-1.50). Our results indicate that environmental correlates to abundance are scale dependent reflecting habitat selection processes and organism movements after a habitat disturbance event. Our study also provides a cautionary example of how scientific inference is conditional on the response variable(s), and scale(s) of measure chosen by the investigator, which can have important implications for species conservation and management. Our research highlights the need for joint evaluation of population state variables, such as abundance, and population-level process, such as survival, when assessing anthropogenic impacts on forest biodiversity. © 2014 Otto et al.

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Otto, C. R. V., Roloff, G. J., & Thames, R. E. (2014). Comparing population patterns to processes: Abundance and survival of a forest salamander following habitat degradation. PLoS ONE, 9(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0093859

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