Correlates and temporal variation in call phenology of eastern Ontario frogs
Klaus, Samantha P.
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Climate change has been predicted to have long-term consequences for North American ecosystems. Amphibians in particular are considered indicators of ecosystem health because of their sensitivity to environmental change – due in part to their semi-permeable skin and aquatic developmental requirements. Amphibians have been experiencing population declines on a global scale, suggested in part to be due to changes in reproductive behaviour and timing. My thesis examines the abiotic correlates of timing of calling in southeastern Ontario anurans, as well as the extent to which the timing of calling events vary within and among species. I focused on eight species of frogs using both a 40-year historical dataset and a 5-year field-collected dataset of environmental variation and anuran activity. From analysis of the historical dataset, Lithobates pipiens was the only species out of eight to emerge significantly earlier, by an estimated 22 days over four decades. Both L. pipiens and Anaraxyus americanus have advanced initiation of calling over a four-decade span significantly earlier by an estimated 37.2 and 19.2 days, respectively, correlating with significant regional increases in spring air temperatures (2.8°C over four decades). Global frog declines or range shifts relate ultimately to changes in reproductive behaviour and timing mediated by shifting climate. From my analysis of the field-collected dataset, I concluded that species varied in the environmental predictors that best predicted this variation may be a consequence of varying reproductive strategies between early spring “explosive” breeders versus late prolonged breeders. There was also significant among-location variation in calling activity for four prolonged breeding species, which may be an effect of significant microclimatic variation between locations surveyed. My study suggests that local temperature increases have affected the timing of emergence and the onset of calling activity in some frogs and that microclimatic differences among breeding habitats may be influencing the timing of breeding in some prolonged breeding species. My research aids future conservation and management strategies for North America’s dwindling amphibian populations by quantifying how abiotic factors influence breeding behaviour on both a fine and extended temporal scale as well as by developing and testing standardized methods for long-term species monitoring.