Movement patterns of southern bell frogs (Litoria raniformis) in response to flooding
Skye Wassens A B , Robyn J. Watts A , Amy Jansen A and David Roshier A
A Institute for Land, Water and Society, School of Environmental Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildlife Research 35(1) 50-58 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR07095
Submitted: 17 July 2007 Accepted: 23 January 2008 Published: 17 March 2008
Within the semiarid regions of New South Wales, Australia, the endangered southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis) occupies a landscape that is characterised by unpredictable rainfall and periodic flooding. Limited knowledge of the movement and habitat-occupancy patterns of this species in response to flood events has hampered conservation efforts. We used radio-tracking to assess changes in movement patterns and habitat occupancy of L. raniformis (n = 40) over three different periods (November, January and April/May) that coincided with the flooding, full capacity and subsequent drying of waterbodies within an irrigation landscape. We assessed (1) the use of permanent and ephemeral habitats in response to flooding and drying and (2) distances moved, turning angles and dispersion of frogs during wetland flooding, full capacity and drying. Individuals remained in permanent waterbodies in November but had abandoned these areas in favour of flooded ephemeral waterbodies by January. As the ephemeral waterbodies dried, radio-tracked individuals moved back into permanent waterbodies. The movement patterns of radio-tracked individuals were significantly different in the three radio-tracking periods, but did not differ significantly between sexes. Individuals moved significantly greater distances over 24 h, in straighter lines and movements were more dispersed while they occupied ephemeral waterbodies during January than when they occupied permanent waterbodies during November and April/May. Local weather conditions did not influence movement patterns when all three tracking periods were modelled together using a single linear stepwise regression. The dynamic distribution of habitat patches over space and time, combined with changing patterns of resource utilisation and movement of L. raniformis, highlights the importance of incorporating both permanent and ephemeral habitat patches into conservation plans. Reductions in flood frequency and extent of ephemeral wetlands due to modified flooding regimes have the capacity to limit dispersal of this species, even when permanent waterbodies remain unchanged.
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