Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Impacts of agriculture on amphibians at multiple scales

Henna Piha

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Agriculture-mediated habitat loss and degradation together with climate change are among the greatest global threats to species, communities, and ecosystem functioning. During the last century, more than 50% of the world's wetlands have been lost and agricultural activities have subjected wetland species to increased isolation and decreased quality of habitats. Likewise, as a part of agricultural intensification, the use of pesticides has increased notably, and pesticide residues occur frequently in wetlands making the exposure of wetland organisms to pesticides highly probable.

In this thesis, a set of ecotoxicological and landscape ecological studies were carried out to investigate pesticide-effects on tadpoles, and species-habitat relationships of amphibians in agricultural landscapes. The results show that the fitness of R. temporaria tadpoles can be negatively affected by sublethal pesticide concentrations, and that pesticides may increase the costs of response to natural environmental stressors. However, tadpoles may also be able to compensate for some of the negative effects of pesticides. The results further demonstrate that both historic and current-day agricultural land use can negatively impact amphibians, but that in some cases the costs of living in agricultural habitats may only become apparent when amphibians face other environmental stressors, such as drought. Habitat heterogeneity may, however, increase the persistence of amphibians in agricultural landscapes.

Hence, the results suggest that amphibians are likely to be affected by agricultural processes that operate at several spatial and temporal scales, and that it is probable that various processes related to current-day agriculture will affect both larval and adult amphibians. The results imply that maintaining dense wetland patterns could enhance persistence of amphibian populations in agricultural habitats, and indicate that heterogeneous landscapes may lower the risk of regional amphibian population declines under extreme weather perturbations.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 13.11.2006

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