Herpetofaunal Communities in Restored and Unrestored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie and Associated Wetlands in Northwest Arkansas, USA

Abstract

Wetlands within tallgrass prairie are among the most endangered ecosystems in North America and serve as critical habitat for many sensitive and endemic species. Although loss of these habitats has acutely affected reptiles and amphibians, most prairie restoration initiatives take an ecosystem restoration approach adapted for plant and/or game species, with few focusing particularly on herpetofauna. Limited information exists documenting the population responses of reptiles and amphibians to wetland restoration in tallgrass prairie ecosystems. We used multiple techniques to compare reptile and amphibian communities in recently (2006) restored and unrestored tallgrass prairie and associated wetland habitats at Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary (WWPS), a wetland mitigation site in Northwest Arkansas (USA). We documented 24 reptile and amphibian species and found that Regina grahamii (Graham’s Crayfish Snake) and Lithobates areolatus (Crawfish Frog), both of which are considered species of greatest conservation need in the state, showed preferential use of restored habitat, while common, widespread species did not use restored or unrestored habitat preferentially. Our results demonstrate that restoration of tallgrass prairie and associated wetlands benefits rare and sensitive herpetofauna and highlight two important management considerations: 1) promoting ephemeral (fishless) hydrology, and 2) emphasizing terrestrial movement corridors and critical upland habitat.

Publication
Wetlands

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