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INTERACTIONS OF AN INSECTICIDE, HERBICIDE, AND NATURAL STRESSORS IN AMPHIBIAN COMMUNITY MESOCOSMS

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Abstract

Amphibians developing in wetlands embedded within or near agricultural lands may frequently encounter chemical mixtures. The objectives of our study were to determine the effects that post-application concentrations of an insecticide (carbaryl) and an herbicide (atrazine) have on body mass, development, and survival of two anuran species (southern leopard frog, Rana sphenocephala; American toad, Bufo americanus) and two caudate species (spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum; small-mouthed salamander, A. texanum) reared in outdoor cattle tank mesocosms. In one experiment, we manipulated tadpole density (low or high), carbaryl exposure (0, 3.5, 7.0 mg/L), and atrazine exposure (0 or 200 μg/L) to test for effects on development, mass, and survival of larvae. In a second experiment, we manipulated pond hydroperiod (constant or drying), carbaryl exposure (0 or 5 mg/L), and atrazine exposure (0 or 200 μg/L) to test for effects on mass, time, and survival to metamorphosis. Salamanders were virtually eliminated in carbaryl treatments, indicating that at realistic levels, this insecticide could cause population declines for salamanders in contaminated habitats. Carbaryl also had negative effects on toad survival. Exposure to atrazine had negative effects on body size, development, and time to metamorphosis in anuran species, which were associated with reduced chlorophyll levels. Both chemicals interacted significantly with density or hydroperiod, indicating that the environmental conditions could influence the impact of a contaminant. A significant atrazine-by-carbaryl interaction resulted in smaller and less developed spotted salamander larvae than in control ponds. Atrazine exposure, however, appeared to moderate negative effects of carbaryl for spotted salamanders. Our research suggests that important changes in the community's food web result from chemical exposure, which influence the susceptibility of amphibian species to contaminants.

Corresponding Editor: J. E. McDowell

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