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Biology 2013, 2(1), 399-418; doi:10.3390/biology2010399
Review

Drought, Deluge and Declines: The Impact of Precipitation Extremes on Amphibians in a Changing Climate

1,* , 1
 and
2
1 Southeast Ecological Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, 7920 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA 2 Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions, Contracted to U.S. Geological Survey, Southeast Ecological Science Center, 7920 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 February 2013 / Revised: 28 February 2013 / Accepted: 1 March 2013 / Published: 11 March 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Implications of Climate Change)
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Abstract

The Class Amphibia is one of the most severely impacted taxa in an on-going global biodiversity crisis. Because amphibian reproduction is tightly associated with the presence of water, climatic changes that affect water availability pose a particularly menacing threat to both aquatic and terrestrial-breeding amphibians. We explore the impacts that one facet of climate change—that of extreme variation in precipitation—may have on amphibians. This variation is manifested principally as increases in the incidence and severity of both drought and major storm events. We stress the need to consider not only total precipitation amounts but also the pattern and timing of rainfall events. Such rainfall “pulses” are likely to become increasingly more influential on amphibians, especially in relation to seasonal reproduction. Changes in reproductive phenology can strongly influence the outcome of competitive and predatory interactions, thus potentially altering community dynamics in assemblages of co-existing species. We present a conceptual model to illustrate possible landscape and metapopulation consequences of alternative climate change scenarios for pond-breeding amphibians, using the Mole Salamander, Ambystoma talpoideum, as an example. Although amphibians have evolved a variety of life history strategies that enable them to cope with environmental uncertainty, it is unclear whether adaptations can keep pace with the escalating rate of climate change. Climate change, especially in combination with other stressors, is a daunting challenge for the persistence of amphibians and, thus, the conservation of global biodiversity.
Keywords: Ambystoma talpoideum; amphibians; climate change; drought; flooding; Mole Salamander; occupancy; precipitation; rainfall pulses; southeastern United States Ambystoma talpoideum; amphibians; climate change; drought; flooding; Mole Salamander; occupancy; precipitation; rainfall pulses; southeastern United States
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Walls, S.C.; Barichivich, W.J.; Brown, M.E. Drought, Deluge and Declines: The Impact of Precipitation Extremes on Amphibians in a Changing Climate. Biology 2013, 2, 399-418.

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