Skip to main content

The value of remnant trees in pastures for a neotropical poison frog

  • Darvé Robinson (a1), Adrienne Warmsley (a2), A. Justin Nowakowski (a3), Kelsey E. Reider (a3) and Maureen A. Donnelly (a3) (a4)...

Conversion of natural habitats to anthropogenic land uses is a primary cause of amphibian declines in species-rich tropical regions. However, agricultural lands are frequently used by a subset of forest-associated species, and the habitat value of a given land use is likely modified by the presence and characteristics of remnant trees. Here we used mark–recapture methods to examine abundances and movement probability of the poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, at individual trees in forest-fragment edges and adjacent pastures in north-eastern Costa Rica. One hundred and forty-seven trees were surveyed at three replicate sites that each included a forest fragment and adjacent pasture. Trees were sampled at distances of ≤30 m into forest and ≤150 m into pastures for Oophaga pumilio, and local environmental characteristics were measured at each tree. We also measured indices of physical condition (size and endurance) of frogs captured in forest edges and in nearby pastures. Analyses of 167 marked individuals showed no difference in per-tree abundances or sex ratios between pasture and forest edges. We found significant interactions between habitat type and leaf-litter cover, tree dbh and number of logs, indicating greater influence of local variables on abundances in pastures. Movement among trees was infrequent and not predicted by sex, size, habitat type or environmental variables. While results of endurance tests did not differ for individuals from the two habitats, frogs captured in pastures were, on average, larger than frogs captured in forest edges. These data indicate that remnant trees are important habitat features for O. pumilio in pastures and corroborate research in other systems that suggests that large relictual trees should be retained to maximize the potential for altered landscapes to provide habitat for native species.

Corresponding author
1Corresponding author. Email:
Hide All
BECKER, C. G. & ZAMUDIO, K. R. 2011. Tropical amphibian populations experience higher disease risk in natural habitats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:98939898.
BUTTERFIELD, R. P. 1994. The regional context: land colonization and conservation in Sarapiquí. Pp. 299306 in McDade, L. A., Bawa, K. S., Hespenheide, H. A. & Hartshorn, G. S. (eds.). La Selva: ecology and natural history of a neotropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
CHAN-MCLEOD, A. C. A. & MOY, A. 2007. Evaluating residual tree patches as stepping stones and short-term refugia for red-legged frogs. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:18361844.
DONNELLY, M. 1989a. Demographic effects of reproductive resource supplementation in a territorial frog, Dendrobates pumilio. Ecological Monographs 59:207221.
DONNELLY, M. 1989b. Effects of reproductive resource supplementation on space-use patterns in Dendrobates pumilio. Oecologia 81:212218.
DONNELLY, M. 1989c. Reproductive phenology and age structure of Dendrobates pumilio in northeastern Costa Rica. Journal of Herpetology 23:362367.
DONNELLY, M. 1991. Feeding patterns of the strawberry poison frog, Dendrobates pumilio (Anura: Dendrobatidae). Copeia 1991:723730.
DONNELLY, M.,GUYER, C.,JUTERBOCK, E. J. & ALFORD, R. 1994. Techniques for marking amphibians. Pp. 277284 in Heyer, W. R., Donnelly, M. A., McDiarmid, R. W., Hayek, L. A. & Foster, M. S. (eds.). Measuring and monitoring biological diversity: standard methods for amphibians. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
FELTON, A.,KNIGHT, E.,WOOD, J.,ZAMMIT, C. & LINDENMAYER, D. 2010. A meta-analysis of fauna and flora species richness and abundance in plantations and pasture lands. Biological Conservation 143:545554.
FISCHER, J.,STOTT, J.,ZERGER, A.,WARREN, G.,SHERREN, K. & FORRESTER, R. 2009. Reversing a tree regeneration crisis in an endangered ecoregion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:1038610391.
FISCHER, J., STOTT, J. & LAW, B. S. 2010. The disproportionate value of scattered trees. Biological Conservation 143:15641567.
GARDNER, E. A. & GRAVES, B. M. 2005. Responses of resident male Dendrobates pumilio to territory intruders. Journal of Herpetology 39:248253.
GARDNER, T., BARLOW, J. & PERES, C. 2007. Paradox, presumption and pitfalls in conservation biology: the importance of habitat change for amphibians and reptiles. Biological Conservation 138:166179.
HARVEY, C. A., MEDINA, A., SÁNCHEZ, D. M., VÍLCHEZ, S., HERNÁNDEZ, B., SAENZ, J. C., MAES, J. M., CASANOVES, F. & SINCLAIR, F. L. 2006. Patterns of animal diversity in different forms of tree cover in agricultural landscapes. Ecological Applications 16:19861999.
HITCHINGS, S. P. & BEEBEE, T. J. C. 1997. Genetic substructuring as a result of barriers to gene flow in urban Rana temporaria (common frog) populations: implications for biodiversity conservation. Heredity 79:117127.
KARP, D. S.,ROMINGER, A. J.,ZOOK, J.,RANGANATHAN, J.,EHRLICH, P. R. & DAILY, G. C. 2012. Intensive agriculture erodes β-diversity at large scales. Ecology Letters 15:963970.
KERBY, J. I.,HART, A. J. & STORFER, A. 2011. Combined effects of virus, pesticide, and predator cue on the larval tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). EcoHealth 8:4654.
LUMSDEN, L. & BENNET, A. F. 2005. Scattered trees in rural landscapes: foraging habitat for insectivorous bats in south-eastern Australia. Biological Conservation 122:205222.
MAHOOD, S. P., LEES, A. C. & PERES, C. A. 2012. Amazonian countryside habitats provide limited avian conservation value. Biodiversity and Conservation 21:385405.
MANNING, A. D., FISCHER, J. & LINDENMAYER, D. B. 2006. Scattered trees are keystone structures – implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 132:311321.
MCKENZIE, V. 2007. Human land use and patterns of parasitism in tropical amphibian hosts. Biological Conservation 137:102116.
MEUCHE, I., LINSENMAIR, D. & PRÖHL, H. 2011. Female territoriality in the strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio). Copeia 2011:351356.
MEUCHE, I.,LINSENMAIR, D. & PRÖHL, H. 2012. Intrasexual competition, territoriality and acoustic communication in male strawberry poison frogs (Oophaga pumilio). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66:613621.
NECKEL-OLIVEIRA, S. & GASCON, C. 2006. Abundance, body size and movement patterns of a tropical treefrog in continuous and fragmented forest in the Brazilian Amazon. Biological Conservation 128:308315.
NOWAKOWSKI, A. J., OTERO-JIMENEZ, B., ALLEN, M., DIAZ-ESCOBAR, M. & DONNELLY, M. A. 2013. Landscape resistance to movement of the poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, in the lowlands of northeastern Costa Rica. Animal Conservation 16:188197.
PRÖHL, H. & BERKE, O. 2001. Spatial distributions of male and female strawberry poison frogs and their relation to female reproductive resources. Oecologia 129:534542.
PULLIAM, H. R. 1988. Sources, sinks, and population regulation. American Naturalist 132:652661.
ROTHERMEL, B. B. & LUHRING, T. M. 2005. Burrow availability and desiccation risk of mole salamanders (Ambystoma talpoideum) in harvested versus unharvested forest stands. Journal of Herpetology 39:619626.
SANFORD, R. L., PAABY, P., LUVALL, J. C. & PHILLIPS, E. 1994. Climate, geomorphology, and aquatic systems. Pp. 1933 in McDade, L. A., Bawa, K. S., Hespenheide, H. A. & Hartshorn, G. S. (eds.). La Selva: ecology and natural history of a neotropical rainforest. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
SAVAGE, J. M. 2002. The amphibians and reptiles of Costa Rica: a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 934 pp.
SCHEDLBAUER, J. L., FINEGAN, B. & KAVANAGH, K. L. 2007. Rain forest structure at forest-pasture edges in northeastern Costa Rica. Biotopica 39:578584.
SEKERCIOGLU, C. H., LOARIE, S. R., BRENES, F. O., EHRLICH, P. R., & DAILY, G. C. 2007. Persistence of forest birds in the Costa Rican agricultural countryside. Conservation Biology 21:482494.
SESNIE, S. E., GESSLER, P. E., FINEGAN, B. & THESSLER, S. 2008. Integrating Landsat TM and SRTM-DEM derived variables with decision trees for habitat classification and change detection in complex neotropical environments. Remote Sensing of Environment 112:21452159.
SLOCUM, M. G. 2001. How tree species differ as recruitment foci in a tropical pasture. Ecology 82:25472559.
SUNDAY, J. M., BATES, A. E. & DULVY, N. K. 2011. Global analysis of thermal tolerance and latitude in ectotherms. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:18231830.
VIÉ, J. C., HILTON-TAYLOR, C. & STUART, S. N (eds.). 2009. Wildlife in a changing world – an analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland. 180 pp.
WELLS, K. D. 2007. The ecology and behavior of amphibians. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1148 pp.
WHITFIELD, S. M.,KERBY, J.,GENTRY, L. R. & DONNELLY, M. A. 2012. Temporal variation in infection prevalence by the amphibian chytrid fungus in three species of frogs at La Selva, Costa Rica. Biotropica 44:779784.
ZUUR, A. F., IENO, E. N., WALKER, N. J., SAVELIEV, A. Z. & SMITH, G. M. 2009. Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. Springer, New York. 574 pp.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-tropical-ecology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed