Farmed areas predict the distribution of amphibian ponds in a traditional rural landscape

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Background:Traditional rural landscapes of Eastern Europe are undergoing major changes due to agricultural intensification, land abandonment, change in agricultural practices and infrastructural development. Small man-made ponds are important yet vulnerable components of rural landscapes. Despite their important role for biodiversity, these ponds tend to be excluded from conservation strategies.Methodology/Findings:Our study was conducted in a traditional rural landscape in Eastern Europe. The aim of this study is twofold: (i) to model the distribution of four major man-made pond types and (ii) to present the importance of man-made ponds for the endangered Yellow Bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) and the Common Toad (Bufo bufo). Six environmental variables were used to model pond distribution: Corine landcover, the heterogeneity of the landcover, slope, road distance, distance to closest village and the human population density. Land cover heterogeneity was the most important driver for the distribution of fishponds. Areas used for agriculture with significant areas of natural vegetation were the most important predictors for the distribution of temporary ponds. In addition, areas covered by transitional woodland and scrub were important for the open cattle ponds. Bombina variegata was found predominantly in the temporary ponds (e.g. ponds created by cattle and buffalo, dirt road ponds and concrete ponds created for livestock drinking) and Bufo bufo in fishponds.Conclusions/Significance:Our Maxent models revealed that the highest probability of occurrence for amphibian ponds was in areas used as farmland. The traditional farming practices combined with a low level of infrastructure development produces a large number of amphibian ponds. The challenge is to harmonize economic development and the maintenance of high densities of ponds in these traditional rural landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63649
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number5
Number of pages8
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
StatePublished - 05.2013

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