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Ecology and Vulnerability Fowler's Toad
Ecology and Vulnerability
The Fowler’s toad is found across the eastern US, except for northern New England and Florida, and is also found in Canada on the northern shore of Lake Erie. It... Read More
The Fowler’s toad is found across the eastern US, except for northern New England and Florida, and is also found in Canada on the northern shore of Lake Erie. It is found in pine and oak forests, river valleys, floodplains, shorelines, beaches, dunes, agricultural areas, and gardens, and prefers areas with deep and sandy soils 3,4. The Fowler’s toad breeds in shallow waters that lack a strong current, such as marshes, semi-permanent ponds, vernal pools, shallow lake bays, or rain pools 4. This species hibernates in the ground from early fall to late spring for roughly seven months in New England 2, digging as deep as 3 feet into sandy soils 3. Adults are almost entirely nocturnal and eat ants, beetles, earthworms, spiders, snails, and slugs; whereas juveniles are diurnal (active during the day) 2,3. Juveniles and adult Fowler’s toads are both capable of moving up to 10km and are therefore able to re-colonize areas experiencing local extinctions 5.
The Fowler’s toad is widespread throughout the eastern US, but is currently listed as “Threatened” in Canada 4. Some threats to this species are related to their ecological traits like high mortality rates, short life span, and low genetic variability (how often their genes have a habit of varying from the norm). Other threats include pollution, habitat loss through development, and habitat degradation from the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis).
Climate change may impact Fowler’s toads through changes in precipitation. Too much spring precipitation can result in egg and larval mortality for amphibians; however, inadequate spring snowpack and/or early summer rain can cause reproductive failure in some amphibians due to either desiccation (extreme dryness), reductions in food supply, or reduced size and/or growth rates 1. Insufficient precipitation can also result in reduced activity and mobility in adults, difficulty in avoiding predators, reduced food supplies, and lethal desiccation 1,6. There is also some evidence that decreases in precipitation related to climate change might make amphibians more susceptible to infectious diseases. For instance, mass mortality of western toad (Bufo boreas) embryos is believed to be caused in part by low precipitation in the Pacific Northwest that resulted in shallower breeding pools and increased exposure to ultraviolet B radiation, which in turn increased susceptibility to infection from the Saprolegnia ferax fungus 1. A number of studies have also proposed that drought can worsen outbreaks of chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease that is threatening amphibians globally. However, strong evidence for this is still lacking and mortality is more likely caused by changes in temperature ranges to those that favor growth of infectious disease agents 6.
Seasonal temperatures are a limiting factor for northern populations of Fowler’s toads, so it is possible that increases in temperature related to climate change may alter the timing of life-history events. For instance, northern populations of this species in colder areas must remain dormant for a greater portion of the year than southern populations and also have less time to store enough energy to maintain this longer dormancy 2. Moreover, temperature limits development and growth of embryos and small juvenile toads as well as adult nocturnal foraging activity 2. A number of species have been noted to initiate breeding activities earlier in response to increases in spring temperature or milder winters, including the common toad (Bufo bufo) 1. However, some species have not shown any change in the timing of their breeding, and it is still unclear whether these changes will be overall beneficial, detrimental, or neutral 6.
1. Carey, C., and M.A. Alexander. 2003. Climate change and amphibian declines: is there a link ? Diversity and Distributions 9: 111–121.
2. Clark, R.D. 1974. Activity and Movement Patterns in a Population of Fowler’s Toad , Bufo woodhousei fowleri. The American Midland Naturalist 92: 257–274.
3. DeGraaf, R.M., and D.D. Rudis. 1986. New England Wildlife: Habitat, Natural History, and Distribution. Forest Service Northeast Forest Experiment Station General Technical Report NE - 108.
4. Dobbyn, S. 2005. A Preliminary Assessment of the Fowler’s Toad ( Bufo fowleri ) Population in Rondeau Provincial Park. Parks Research Forum of Ontario 181–193.
5. Green, D.M., A.R. Yagi, and S.E. Hammil. 2011. Fowler’s Toad Ontario Recovery Strategy Series About the Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario vi + 21pp.
6. Yiming, L., J.M. Cohen, and J.R. Rohr. 2013. Review and synthesis of the effects of climate change on amphibians. Integrative Zoology 8: 145–161.
Hoving, C. L., Y. M. Lee, P. J. Badra, and B. J. Klatt. 2013. Changing climate, changing wildlife: a vulnerability assessment of 400 Species of Greatest Conservation Need and game species in Michigan. Wildlife Division Report #3564. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI.
Related Adaptation Strategies and Actions
Related Habitats (broad)
Related Habitats (detailed)
Related Species Groups
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