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Data from: Impact of forestry practices at a landscape scale on the dynamics of amphibian populations

Cite this dataset

Harper, Elizabeth B.; Patrick, David A.; Gibbs, James P. (2015). Data from: Impact of forestry practices at a landscape scale on the dynamics of amphibian populations [Dataset]. Dryad.


Forest loss is a primary cause of worldwide amphibian decline. Timber harvesting in the United States has caused dramatic changes in quality and extent of forest ecosystems, and intensive forest management still occurs. Although numerous studies have documented substantial reductions in amphibian densities related to timber harvest, subsequent extinctions are rare. To better understand the population dynamics that have allowed so many amphibian species to persist in the face of widespread forest disturbance, we developed spatially explicit metapopulation models for four forest-dependent amphibian species (Lithobates sylvaticus, Ambystoma opacum, A. talpoideum, and A. maculatum) that incorporated demographic and habitat selection data derived from experiments conducted as part of the Land Use Effects on Amphibian Populations Project (LEAP). We projected local and landscape-scale population persistence under 108 different forestry practice scenarios, varying treatment (partial cut, clear-cut with coarse woody debris [CWD] removed, and clear-cut with CWD retained), cut patch size (1, 10, or 50 ha), total area cut (10, 20, or 30%), and initial amphibian population size (5, 50, or 500 adult females per local breeding population). Under these scenarios, landscape-scale extinction was highly unlikely, occurring in <1% of model runs and for only 2 of the 4 species, because landscape-scale populations were able to persist via dispersal even despite frequent local extinctions. Yet for all species, population sizes were reduced to ~50% in all clear-cut scenarios, regardless of the size of harvested patches. These findings suggest that debate over timber harvesting on pool-breeding amphibian populations in the United States should focus not on questions of landscape-scale extinction but on the ecological consequences of dramatic reductions in amphibian biomass, including changes in trophic interactions, nutrient cycling, and energy transfer. Additionally, we conclude that amphibian declines and extinctions are far more likely to occur as a result of permanent habitat loss resulting from development than from the temporary degradation of habitat caused by current forestry practices.

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South Carolina