Enhancing the richness and resilience of California amphibian communities

Award Period
Award Amount
Agency Name
UC Office Of The President
Award Number
PI First Name
PI Last Name
Samantha Stevenson-Michener
Area/s of Research
Climate Change Science
Ecology and Evolution

California’s ponds and wetlands provide critical habitat for many sensitive species while also performing vital ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling, pest control, and water provisioning. Yet these systems and their inhabitants are disproportionately vulnerable to the dramatic fluctuations in water availability increasingly experienced in California, including both extreme drought and severe flooding. The core objectives of this proposal are to quantitatively identify wetland characteristics that promote resilience in aquatic communities and combine this information with climate forecasting to enhance habitat suitability in an uncertain future. We focus on native communities of amphibians, which are now the most imperiled group of vertebrates globally, and in particular on Species of Greatest Conservation Need such as the California red-legged frog and the California tiger salamander. Our approach involves three components: leveraging a uniquely long-term (13 years) and large-scale (85 continuously sampled wetlands and 400 opportunistically sampled wetlands) dataset in the East Bay region to isolate the drivers of resilience to extreme climate events. This will include extending the dataset to capture responses following recent flooding (new sampling in 2023-2024) and the installation of an integrated sensor network on a strategically selected subset of 30 sites to provide high-resolution data on hydroperiod, water chemistry, temperature, phenology, and wildlife activity. Analyses of new and longterm data will be integrated with climate forecast scenarios to identify key management actions that maximize landscape-level richness and enhance resilience in ponds across the East Bay, with a focus on hydroperiod alteration, invasive species removal, reintroductions, and disease mitigation. By forming collaborative partnerships among universities, park management districts, and municipal water agencies, this work has a direct influence on >800 ponds distributed across 50,000 hectares of habitat and offers management insight relevant to amphibian populations across much of the state. Alongside direct outcomes, results from this seed grant will be leveraged to undertake scientifically-informed restoration efforts across managed properties, facilitating the capacity of aquatic wildlife to durably persist in the face of climate variability.