Habitat matrix effects on pond occupancy in newts
In farmlands, the population viability of many amphibians is suspected to depend on the resistance the matrix of crop fields presents to movements between ponds and terrestrial sires and movements among ponds. Over recent decades the increase in cereal grouping at the expense of cattle breeding has caused a drastic change in habitat matrix in many European regions. We investigated the effect of such change on populations of three newt species (Triturus helveticus, T. alpestris, and T. cristatus) by comparing their abundances in sites that varied in amount of cultivated ground. A multivariate regression analysis of the relationship of newt abundance to both Pond and landscape variables demonstrated the negative influence of cultivated ground on abundance. The width of the uncultivated sector linking the pond to the forest was a good predictor of abundance after the influences of both pond area and fish presence were removed Moreover, newt presence was positively related to the number of ponds within that 50-ha surrounding area, highlighting the role of metapopulation functioning in newt occupancy of ponds. The relationship between newt abundance and width of uncultivated sectors agrees with present knowledge of the orientation mechanisms that underlie migration movements in urodeles Such a relationship between connectedness and sector width shows that narrow linear corridors such as hedgerows may not be useful in newt conservation. Our study, also highlights the need to incorporate a behavioral component of habitat use into models of connectivity in conservation biology.
Author(s): Joly, P; Miaud, C; Lehmann, A; Grolet, O
Journal: Conservation Biology