Researcher gets grant to study climate impact on amphibians’ food
CLEMSON — Clemson University wildlife biologists were awarded a grant by the University Research Grants Committee (URGC) to study the influence of climate change on amphibian population health.
Kyle Barrett, assistant professor of wetland ecology in Clemson’s School of Agricultural, Forest, and Environmental Sciences (SAFES), will lead a team of researchers in a multistate investigation into the effect of temperature on amphibians’ ability to resist the environmental impact of invasive wetland plants.
The results of the study will help wildlife managers and conservation biologists better understand how to manage invasive plant species for amphibian population success.
Barrett will investigate how spring peeper and wood frog tadpoles react to purple loosestrife invasion in Clemson, while researchers from Lindenwood University (St. Louis) and Loyola University in Chicago will replicate the experiment to understand how different climates influence tadpole response to purple loosestrife.
“To our knowledge, this will be the first study linking tadpole nutrient status to plant nutrient content. This analysis will provide the conclusive, mechanistic link between plant nutrient quality and tadpole size and performance,” Barrett said.
Previous research has indicated that purple loosestrife has negative effects for wetland animal communities by outcompeting the more nutritious native plants.
“Since purple loosestrife is lower-quality food, we predict that the tadpoles will be smaller and possibly take longer to reach metamorphosis. Plant nutrient content is the basis of the tadpole’s food source. The comparisons across locations will provide insight into how climate change might exacerbate the threat posed by invasive plants,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s laboratory focuses its research efforts on assessing the influence of climate change on vertebrates, and he hopes this research project will provide experiential learning opportunities for students in his undergraduate and graduate ecology and wildlife biology classes.
Amphibians are a critically endangered vertebrate group and their declines have been linked to a number of environmental stressors.
Some research suggests that amphibian health is a strong harbinger of overall environmental health. Studies show that amphibian biology is closely related to temperature and rain amounts and that wood frog tadpoles have slower growth and predator resistance in warmer water temperatures.
Grants from the University Research Grants Committee are awarded on project merit and intended to aid research and leaders of research teams advance research projects to a point where they can receive external funding.