Presented on July 27, 2023 | Presentation Slides



“Predicting the Persistence of Salamanders: Consequences of Phenological Shifts for Species of Management Concern on DoD Lands” by Dr. Tom Anderson (SERDP Project RC-2703

Phenology, or the timing of key life history events, is one well-documented organismal response to climatic change that has the potential to alter population and community dynamics. Yet, little is known about the demographic consequences of phenological shifts, limiting our understanding of effective management strategies for species at risk—a critical aspect of SERDP’s mission. Our project sought to elucidate the climate drivers and demographic consequences of phenological change for four pond-breeding salamander species using field observations, experimental studies, and statistical and simulation modeling. Field results indicate that salamander populations exhibit a wide range of phenological variation in the timing of breeding and metamorphosis, though precision in identification of climatic drivers varied among our focal specific taxa. Experimental studies identified that variation in breeding phenology had limited demographic impacts on salamanders, indicating these animals may have some capacity towithstand some phenological shifts with minimal negative consequences. As a corollary, community dynamics were largely unaffected because of limited demographic changes in salamanders, a key top predator in pond food webs. Additionally, modeling efforts have revealed altered wetland hydrology and other effects of climate change (e.g., sea level rise, drought) are more likely to challenge salamander conservation efforts than phenological shifts. 

“Will Climate-Mediated Phenological Shifts Affect Population Viability? A Test With Butterflies on DoD Lands” by Dr. Elizabeth Crone (SERDP Project RC-2700

DoD lands support many at-risk species, especially early successional species like butterflies. Land managers need to understand species phenology to minimize negative impacts of other land uses for these at-risk species. Changes in phenology are a conspicuous biological fingerprint of climate change. This project evaluates the extent of phenological changes for butterfly communities, and the impacts of phenological shifts for interactions with larval food plants, nectar plants and consumers. We found that, on average, butterfly flight periods are advancing by a day every five years, with stronger advances in early-season species and delays in the flight periods of late-season species. These changes in phenology led to modest changes in temporal overlap with interacting species. However, the effects of phenological shifts were much smaller than the effects of longstanding drivers of butterfly population viability, such as land management and invasive species. Changes in phenology of at-risk butterflies should be considered when planning the timing of activities like monitoring and land use for training purposes. However, our data suggest that phenological shifts are not a leading driver of future endangerment or extinction of butterfly taxa. 

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Tom Anderson is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. His research primarily focuses on population dynamics, community ecology, and species interactions, with most projects focused on aquatic ecosystems. He has worked on two projects funded by SERDP, one as a graduate student and one as co-PI, with aims of understanding metapopulation dynamics and effects of phenological shifts in salamanders of conservation concern. He has authored over 40 peer-reviewed papers and delivered over 30 technical presentations and posters. Dr. Anderson received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a master’s degree in watershed science from Murray State University, and a doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of Missouri. 

Dr. Elizabeth Crone is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at University of California, Davis. She is a population ecologist whose work combines statistical and mathematical approaches with field work to understand dynamics of plant and insect populations. She has served as a principal and co-principal investigator of projects funded by SERDP, National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, United States Forest Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and DoD Legacy Program, as well as smaller awards from state and non-government agencies. Dr. Crone is a former Fulbright fellow, former Chair of the Theory section of the Ecological Society of America, a foreign member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, and a recipient of the Ecological Society of Japan’s Ecological Research award, as well as the 2018 SERDP Project of the Year Award in Resource Conservation and Resiliency. She has authored 130 peer-reviewed papers and works regularly with state and federal biologists to assess decisions related to management of at-risk insects. Dr. Crone received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of William and Mary and a doctoral degree in botany and genetics from Duke University.