PORTRAIT OF A SMALL POPULATION OF BOREAL TOADS (ANAXYRUS BOREAS)

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Abstract

Much attention has been given to the conservation of small populations, those that are small because of decline, and those that are naturally small. Small populations are of particular interest because ecological theory suggests that they are vulnerable to the deleterious effects of environmental, demographic, and genetic stochasticity as well as natural and human-induced catastrophes. However, testing theory and developing applicable conservation measures for small populations is hampered by sparse data. This lack of information is frequently driven by computational issues with small data sets that can be confounded by the impacts of stressors. We present estimates of demographic parameters from a small population of Boreal Toads (Anaxyrus boreas) that has been surveyed since 2001 by using capture-recapture methods. Estimates of annual adult survival probability are high relative to other Boreal Toad populations, whereas estimates of recruitment rate are low. Despite using simple models, clear patterns emerged from the analyses, suggesting that population size is constrained by low recruitment of adults and is declining slowly. These patterns provide insights that are useful in developing management directions for this small population, and this study serves as an example of the potential for small populations to yield robust and useful information despite sample size constraints.

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