Rapid Assessment of Wetland Condition Reflects Amphibian Community Composition

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Stephen RichterORCID iD iconhttps://orcid.org/0000-0001-6646-2484


Biological Sciences

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Kentucky has lost over 80% of its wetlands, and because state-wide monitoring was historically minimal, this number is likely underestimated. The Kentucky Wetland Rapid Assessment Method (KY-WRAM) was developed to assess wetland condition. Our objective was to determine if the KY-WRAM reflects condition by comparing it to intensive assessment of amphibian communities, while simultaneously addressing which environmental variables explain the distribution and abundance of amphibian species in riverine wetlands. Wetlands (n = 44) were randomly selected and stratified by score for comparison of amphibian communities across a disturbance gradient. Factors including KY-WRAM score, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, landscape disturbance, predatory fish, and atrazine were included as model parameters to potentially explain species richness and abundance. KY-WRAM score explained the majority of variation in richness (R2 = 0.62), which was significantly greater at medium and high category sites compared to low. KY-WRAM was also an important predictor of abundance for seven amphibian species. Results indicate KY-WRAM is a good predictor of wetland condition and strongly relates to amphibian communities. Other variables that contributed to explaining abundance were landscape disturbance, wetland size, predatory fish, and river basin. Our study contributes to overall validation of the KY-WRAM. Future validation studies should focus on other basins, wetland types, and taxa.

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