Global amphibian decline is due to several factors: habitat loss, anthropization, pollution, emerging diseases, and global warming. Amphibians, with complex life cycles, are particularly susceptible to habitat alterations, and their survival may be impaired in anthropized habitats. Increased mortality is a well-known consequence of anthropization. Life-history theory predicts higher reproductive investment when mortality is increased. In this work, we compared age, body size, and different indicators of reproductive investment, as well as prey availability, in natterjack toads ( Epidalea calamita ) from agrosystems and adjacent natural pine groves in Southwestern Spain. Mean age was lower in agrosystems than in pine groves, possibly as a consequence of increased mortality due to agrosystem environmental stressors. Remarkably, agrosystem toads were larger despite being younger, suggesting accelerated growth rate. Although we detected no differences in prey availability between habitats, artificial irrigation could shorten aestivation in agrosystems, thus increasing energy trade. Moreover, agrosystem toads exhibited increased indicators of reproductive investment. In the light of life-history theory, agrosystem toads might compensate for lesser reproductive events—due to shorter lives—with a higher reproductive investment in each attempt. Our results show that agrosystems may alter demography, which may have complex consequences on both individual fitness and population stability.
Zamora-Camacho, F. J., & Comas, M. (2017). Greater reproductive investment, but shorter lifespan, in agrosystem than in natural-habitat toads. PeerJ, 5, e3791. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3791