Amphibian Occupancy, Functional Connectivity, and Resilience of Rainwater Basin Wetlands

Goals

This project seeks to assess how agricultural land-use may affect resilience of a large wetland complex.

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 in the Rainwater Basin were filled or farmed through. The remaining wetlands exist in an intensive agricultural matrix that has further isolated wetlands and may affect their function, and reduce the resilience of the Rainwater Basin.

For the Nebraska 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. Volunteers from the Unit, the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and various other organizations performed roadside amphibian call surveys at 125 wetlands in the Rainwater Basin. Additionally, water contaminant samples continue to be collected and analyzed for a suite of agricultural contaminants. Concentrations of contaminants found in the Rainwater Basin will be replicated in laboratory conditions to assess toxicity to larval amphibians.
Private wetland in an agricultural field in the Rainwater Basin in May (flooded with rainfall)
Private wetland in an agricultural field in the Rainwater Basin in May (flooded with rainfall)
The same wetland in July. Wetland has contracted and surrounding land has been planted.
The same wetland in July. Wetland has contracted and surrounding land has been planted.
Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig Allen, NE CFWRU
-Dan Snow
Graduate Student(s)
-Michelle Hellman, Ph.D.
Project Duration
April 2013 - May 2017
Funding
-National Science Foundation IGERT Program
-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Location
Rainwater Basin, Nebraska