Population dynamics and range limits of a montane salamander

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dc.contributor Howeth, Jennifer G.
dc.contributor Benstead, Jonathan P.
dc.contributor Adams, Dean C.
dc.contributor.advisor Rissler, Leslie J.
dc.contributor.advisor Staudhammer, Christina L.
dc.contributor.author Caruso, Nicholas
dc.date.accessioned 2018-06-04T14:57:26Z
dc.date.available 2018-06-04T14:57:26Z
dc.date.issued 2017
dc.identifier.other u0015_0000001_0002846
dc.identifier.other Caruso_alatus_0004D_13292
dc.identifier.uri http://ir.ua.edu/handle/123456789/3522
dc.description Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
dc.description.abstract Understanding the abiotic and biotic factors that determine the limits to species’ ranges is an essential goal in ecology, biogeography, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology. The abiotic environment, specifically climate, can influence amphibian life history in a variety of ways; populations in cooler temperatures tend to have shorter breeding seasons, fewer clutches, slower growth rates, but larger body size, older age at maturity, greater number of eggs within a clutch and larger eggs. However, for many salamander species the relationship between demographic vital rates (i.e., survival, growth, and reproduction) and climate is unknown. As future changes in climate will likely have a negative effect on many populations, especially salamanders within the southern Appalachians, understanding how the environment can influence life history and vital rates, and subsequently population growth, is crucial to predicting how future changes in climate will affect populations. This dissertation focuses on a montane endemic salamander, Plethodon montanus, to understand how vital rates vary along an elevational (climatic) gradient, the relative importance of the abiotic environment and local adaptation on vital rates, and lastly how the observed variation in vital rates ultimately affects population growth. These studies are important to understanding how future climate changes may affect montane salamanders, especially since environmental suitability is predicted to decrease throughout the southern Appalachians and notably at lower elevations for P. montanus. Survival and growth were both largely influenced by climate: populations at higher elevations had higher survival, larger asymptotic size, older individuals, and reached maturity at an older age compared to lower elevations. At lower elevations, survival of large females was the most important vital rate based on elasticity analyses and best predicted population growth rates, whereas the remaining vital rates showed little importance. However at higher elevations, while survival of large females had the highest elasticity, three vital rates corresponding to survival during earlier life stages had higher predictability of population growth. Moreover, higher elevations were marked by having vital rates with more evenly distributed importance as measured by elasticity compared to lower elevations, which likely put lower elevation habitats at a greater threat from environmental stochasticity as low elasticity evenness is associated with greater likelihood of declines from increased variation in the environment. This work addresses the role of the abiotic environment (e.g., elevation, climate) on life history and demographic vital rates. The future appears bleak for the focal species and likely other montane terrestrial plethodontids under projected changes in climate.
dc.format.extent 200 p.
dc.format.medium electronic
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language English
dc.language.iso en_US
dc.publisher University of Alabama Libraries
dc.relation.ispartof The University of Alabama Electronic Theses and Dissertations
dc.relation.ispartof The University of Alabama Libraries Digital Collections
dc.relation.hasversion born digital
dc.rights All rights reserved by the author unless otherwise indicated.
dc.subject.other Ecology
dc.subject.other Demography
dc.subject.other Zoology
dc.title Population dynamics and range limits of a montane salamander
dc.type thesis
dc.type text
etdms.degree.department University of Alabama. Dept. of Biological Sciences
etdms.degree.discipline Biological Sciences
etdms.degree.grantor The University of Alabama
etdms.degree.level doctoral
etdms.degree.name Ph.D.


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