Maximizing pond biodiversity across the landscape: a case study of larval ambystomatid salamanders


  • Editor: Nathalie Pettorelli
  • Associate Editor: Francesco Ficetola


Loss or alteration of natural wetland habitats is a near ubiquitous global phenomenon. In the US, legislation mandates that all lost wetland habitats be replaced; manmade wetland habitats rarely have the same structural form or ecological function as natural wetlands. In the eastern US, these manmade pond habitats often serve as water sources for wildlife, but many are also utilized by amphibians for reproduction. Understanding the features that maximize species’ abundance and diversity is critical to effective management. In this study, we surveyed for ambystomatid salamander larvae at 169 manmade ponds in a military training installation. Three species were present: Ambystoma maculatum, A. opacum and the regionally endemic A. annulatum. We estimated larval densities in each pond in relation to landscape- and pond-level covariates. Important factors relating to larval density were forest habitat surrounding each pond, canopy cover over a pond, the number of ponds within 300 m of the focal pond, presence of fish, slope of the pond basin, hydroperiod and amount of vegetation within the pond. Density estimates for each species were best predicted by different combinations of these factors, underscoring the need to provide a range of pond habitats to promote species diversity on the landscape. Our results indicate that manmade ponds are providing a valuable reproductive resource, but that future construction of ponds on the landscape will best serve the salamander and broader amphibian community if different combinations of hydroperiod and slope are utilized.