Amphibians are very important to the forest and wetlands ecosystem, however, the populations are declining, making them a conservation concern throughout British Columbia. Due to lack of information on distribution patterns and abundance, detecting declines is difficult and hinders conservation efforts.
Background of the Research Project
For this study five species of amphibians were used that occur in the study area to identify breeding habitats, threats and problem areas. This was done to overall improve the management of wetland habitats and support stewardship. There were three clear objectives including the documentation of distribution patterns and monitoring of breeding habitats, assessment of threats to habitats and populations and to involve the community and therefore educate them and foster stewardship.
Methods, Materials and Study Area
The study was conducted in south-central BC within an area of 7,200km2. For the data on distribution patterns the study area was divided into 10×10 km grids. Preferred areas were wetland habitats where there has been no or only little survey effort in the past. In total, 260 bodies of water were surveyed throughout the whole project from 2011 to 2014.
Another part of the study was to identify and monitor breeding sites. For all five species new sites were found. Several sites that were discovered in the past were continued to be monitored throughout the study.
The study also included night surveys which consisted of frog call surveys, walking trails and observations on roads.
The surveys were also used to determine potential threats to the habitat and populations. These threats included logging activity, introduced fish, roads, housing developments and recreational sites and activities. To reduce road mortality of Western Toads it was monitored how effective the underpass is that was installed in 2013 as part of the project. In addition, drift fences were installed and monitored resulting in a new design of fences that would last longer.
The last objective of the project was to engage community members. In total there were 28 volunteers participating in activities like the frog call surveys, the participation in “amphibian day”, field work,
the construction of drift fences, helping to reduce road kill and monitoring of breeding sites.
Results of the Study
The Pacific Treefrog, Western Toad, Columbia Spotted Frog and Long-toed Salamander were all widespread during the study, however, the salamander’s cryptic behaviour made it difficult to detect. The Great Basin Spadefoot was less widespread and found only in the Upper Nicola area.
In total 16 breeding sites for the Columbia Spotted Frog and 20 sites for the Western Toad have been visited and monitored from 2011 to 2014. At those sites breeding was documented at 12 sites for the Columbia Spotted Frog and 18 for the Western Toad.
During the night frog call surveys there were no clear trends detected and during the night walk 38 Western Toads and nine Great Basin Spadefoots were observed.
The questionnaire that was distributed to the volunteers was filled out by 16 people and revealed that these field trips that are led by biologists or other experienced “froggers” are very important and that many volunteers also want to train in order to be able to lead their own field trips. It is also essential to involve schools in the process, use word-of-mouth as a promotion technique, incorporate forestry field crews into the project, encouraging them to report sightings, and to create more practical ways of collecting data.
The project continued in 2015 and 2016 including visiting already identified breeding sites again to monitor them, gaining more information on distribution patterns to fill knowledge gaps, continuing work with volunteers to engage the community and raise awareness and working together with landowners and managers to determine stewardship opportunities. Several suggestions to diminish threats include but are not limited to monitoring for road kill, monitoring the effectiveness of structures like underpasses, monitoring breeding sites and activity and monitoring wetland conditions and water levels.
Amphibians are very important to the ecosystems of wetlands. It is therefore important to monitor their habitats and populations. The study focused on such monitoring in order to improve the management of amphibian habitats. It included night surveys, monitoring of breeding sites, identification of distribution patterns and educating the public. It has run from 2011 to 2014 and by the time this report was written they suggested to continue research for two more years in order to gain more knowledge and fill gaps of important information.
- Evergreen Stewardship Plan for Lillooet Sub Region
- Evergreen Stewardship Plan for South Chilcotin Sub Region
- Source Kristiina Ovaska, Lennart Sopuck, and Christian Engelstoft. March 2016. Community-based Amphibian Monitoring Program in Multi-use Landscapes in South-central BC, 2011 – 2015 Final Report. Prepared by Biolinx Environmental Research Ltd. Available at : http://www.nicolanaturalists.ca/files/Nicola-Amphibian-Report-2011-2015-copy.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].