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

  • Author / Creator
    Browne, Constance
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2010-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3671H
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Biological Sciences
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Paszkowski, Cynthia (Biological Sciences)
    • Foote, Lee (Renewable Resources)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Merrill, Evelyn (Biological Sciences)
    • Chapman, Ross (Elk Island National Park, Parks Canada)
    • Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
    • Russell, Anthony (Biological Sciences, University of Calgary)