Fire maintenance and artificial burrows increase growth and survival of the endangered dusky gopher frog in longleaf pine forests

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Joseph Peter Nacy III (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Joseph Pechmann

Abstract: The critically endangered Dusky Gopher Frog occupies longleaf pine savannas frequented by fire, where grasses and natural burrows are abundant. Gopher frogs avoid fire-suppressed habitat, where the understory is comprised of shrubs and there are fewer burrows. It is assumed that fire-suppression creates a suboptimal environment for gopher frogs, but there are few data to support this. In this experiment, I examined growth and survival rates of juvenile dusky gopher frogs in burned and fire-suppressed habitats and, using artificial burrows, I examined how burrow density affected these rates. I marked and released newly metamorphosed frogs into outdoor enclosures in a longleaf pine forest assigned to one of four treatments: frequently-burned, frequently-burned with artificial burrows, fire-suppressed, and fire-suppressed with artificial burrows. From June 2018 through January 2019, I recaptured frogs and recorded their mass and snout-vent length. I found that frogs in frequently-burned enclosures containing artificial burrows had the greatest growth. Frogs in fire-suppressed enclosures without artificial burrows had the lowest growth. Frogs in the frequently-burned enclosures without artificial burrows and frogs in fire-suppressed enclosures with artificial burrows had strikingly similar growth, demonstrating that increasing burrow density could mitigate the effects of fire-suppression. Survival was highest in frequently-burned enclosures containing artificial burrows. The results of this research suggest that both controlled burns and artificial burrows can increase growth in gopher frogs while the combination of the two treatments can enhance survival. Management burns and incorporating artificial burrows into forest management strategies could facilitate the recovery of this endangered species.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Artificial burrows, Endangered species, Gopher frog, Growth, Rana Sevosa, Survival

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