Amphibian Occupancy, Functional Connectivity, and Resilience of Rainwater Basin Wetlands
April 2013 - May 2018
Both the quantity and overall quality of wetlands have severely declined globally. Many remaining wetlands exist in landscapes dominated by agricultural production. The Rainwater Basin is a region of Nebraska characterized by shallow wetlands located in an agricultural matrix. Following European settlement in the mid-to-late 19th century more than 90% of historic wetlands were filled or farmed through. The remaining wetlands exist in an area of intensive agriculture that has further isolated wetlands and may affect their function, and reduce the resilience of the Rainwater Basin. Resilience of a system is the amount or magnitude of disturbance a system can absorb before it is pushed into a new stable state. Resilience can be eroded over time by small perturbations leaving the system more vulnerable to a catastrophic change. For the Rainwater Basin, we are interested in the resilience of the functional connectivity among wetlands, for amphibian species. Amphibians are an important taxonomic group that provide services by controlling insects, serving as food for migratory birds and other species, and integrating terrestrial and aquatic systems. Amphibians are sensitive to environmental contaminants and can be used as an indicator of water quality, system health, and resilience. Occupancy of amphibians, functional connectivity of remaining wetlands, and acute and chronic effects to amphibians from commonly applied agrichemicals will be investigated. This project seeks to assess how agricultural land-use may affect resilience of a large wetland complex.