Landscape of sound, or on communication in amphibians
- Principal Investigator: mgr inż. Michał Bełcik, Institute of Nature Conservation PAS
- Project title: Landscape of sound - influence of social public information on the landscape connectivity and occurence of selected amphibian species in habitat patches
- Funding scheme: PRELUDIUM 15, announced on 15 March 2018
There are numerous studies on the relationship between the landscape and the presence and number of animals. In these studies, amphibians are often selected as model species because during the breeding season they usually inhabit easily recognisable habitats (ponds, puddles) and are considered the most endangered group of vertebrates on Earth. The studies have often focused on a concept known as landscape connectivity, which relates to the degree to which selected landscape elements (fields, woodland, baulks, roads, etc.) facilitate or impede the movement of animals between habitats. Existing studies suggest that the spatial isolation of habitats and the presence of barriers may adversely affect the ability of amphibians to move and find habitats for reproduction. Insulated water reservoirs also have fewer amphibian species. However, most of these studies do not take into account the impact of social information on the distribution and number of amphibians. Social information is a broad concept that covers all traces of animals, for example, the sounds they make, mating voices, feeding signs, traces or faeces. Since amphibians have characteristic mating voices during the breeding season, audible over several hundred metres, they can change the way these animals perceive the landscape and find suitable places to breed. In my research, I will focus on two species of tailless amphibians – the European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) and the moor frog (Rana arvalis) – known for their characteristic mating calls during the breeding season.
The main aim of this project is to check the impact of social information on the distribution of amphibians and how amphibians use this information when choosing breeding sites. I will test two research hypotheses in this project. The first one assumes that mating calls coming from new, artificially built ponds have a positive impact on the presence of amphibians. The second one assumes that by taking into account the impact of social information, it will be possible to anticipate more effectively the occurrence of amphibians in the habitats concerned.
The project provides for three main research tasks. The first task will be to experimentally determine the distance from which amphibians can hear mating voices in different types of landscape. The second task will involve the emission of mating voices on newly built artificial ponds (which are characterised by the varied connectivity of the surrounding landscape) and observing whether this affects their presence in these places. The third task will be to use social information as a variable in the models that will be used to predict the presence of amphibians and see if it increases the predictability of these models.
The answers to all the questions raised in this study will help us to better understand the role of social information for amphibians. As habitat loss and fragmentation is considered to be one of the most important factors in the decline of this group of animals, understanding the factors influencing habitat selection can be very valuable. This could also significantly support actions related to the protection of amphibian species by developing more comprehensive plans for the protection and establishment of suitable habitats.
mgr inż. Michał Bełcik
Born in Krasnystaw on 13.12.1986. He graduated from the Forestry Faculty of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (specialization: Forest Information Technology) and HNE Eberswalde. He is currently a PhD student at the Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences. His dissertation involves the factors that have an impact on the presence of birds in forest islands within the SONATA BIS 4 grant. Winner of PRELUDIUM 15 and ETIUDA 8 grants.
Date of publication: 23rd Oct 2020