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Habitat use of the western toad in north-central Alberta and the influence of scale Open Access


Other title
Anaxyrus boreas
boreal toad
resource selection function
Bufo boreas
western toad
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Browne, Constance
Supervisor and department
Paszkowski, Cynthia (Biological Sciences)
Foote, Lee (Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Russell, Anthony (Biological Sciences, University of Calgary)
Chapman, Ross (Elk Island National Park, Parks Canada)
Merrill, Evelyn (Biological Sciences)
Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The western toad (Anaxyrus boreas, formerly Bufo boreas) is one of many amphibian species considered to be at risk of extinction (COSEWIC status is Special Concern). I examined habitat use patterns of the western toad using several methods to gain a better understanding of its habitat requirements. I examined the relationship between relative abundance of the western toad and two sympatric amphibian species (wood frog, Lithobates sylvaticus; and boreal chorus frog, Pseudacris maculata) and habitat features at eight scales of spatial extent at 24 wetlands in the Lake Utikuma region of Alberta, Canada. I radio-tracked adult western toads in three study areas in the Aspen Parkland and Boreal regions of north-central Alberta to examine 1) whether patterns of habitat selection change with different scales of spatial extent, spatial resolution, habitat composition, temporal period, and between males and females during the active period, 2) habitat used for hibernation, and 3) factors influencing the timing and nature of movements to hibernation sites. I found that the abundance of the three amphibian species was best described at different spatial extents and was related to the biology of each species. Resource Selection Function (RSF) models, created using radio-telemetry data, indicated that habitat selection was scale-dependent for western toads; differences in selection were observed among study designs, study areas, time periods, and sexes. Predictive ability did not differ significantly among study designs. However, models that were created using a fine-grained map and home-range spatial extent generally produced models with greater predictive ability than models using a coarse-grained map or population-range extent. During the active season toads selected open habitat types such as wet shrub, disturbed grass, and crop/hay fields. Western toads hibernated terrestrially in pre-existing tunnels and the majority of toads hibernated in forest stands dominated by spruce. Toads used hibernation sites 146–1936 m from breeding ponds and 68% of hibernacula were communal. Arrival at and entry into hibernation sites was influenced by temperature and/or day length; larger toads moved to hibernation sites later in the year. My research results can be used to identify and protect habitat for western toads in Canada.
License granted by Constance Browne ( on 2010-01-05 (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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