Interactive effects of wildfire, forest management, and isolation on amphibian and parasite abundance

Blake R. Hossack, Winsor H. Lowe, R. Ken Honeycutt, Sean A. Parks, Paul Stephen Corn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Projected increases in wildfire and other climate-driven disturbances will affect populations and communities worldwide, including host-parasite relationships. Research in temperate forests has shown that wildfire can negatively affect amphibians, but this research has occurred primarily outside of managed landscapes where interactions with human disturbances could result in additive or synergistic effects. Furthermore, parasites represent a large component of biodiversity and can affect host fitness and population dynamics, yet they are rarely included in studies of how vertebrate hosts respond to disturbance. To determine how wildfire affects amphibians and their parasites, and whether effects differ between protected and managed landscapes, we compared abundance of two amphibians and two nematodes relative to wildfire extent and severity around wetlands in neighboring protected and managed forests (Montana, USA). Population sizes of adult, male long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum) decreased with increased burn severity, with stronger negative effects on isolated populations and in managed forests. In contrast, breeding population sizes of Columbia spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris) increased with burn extent in both protected and managed protected forests. Path analysis showed that the effects of wildfire on the two species of nematodes were consistent with differences in their life history and transmission strategies and the responses of their hosts. Burn severity indirectly reduced abundance of soil-transmitted Cosmocercoides variabilis through reductions in salamander abundance. Burn severity also directly reduced C. variabilis abundance, possibly though changes in soil conditions. For the aquatically transmitted nematode Gyrinicola batrachiensis, the positive effect of burn extent on density of Columbia spotted frog larvae indirectly increased parasite abundance. Our results show that effects of wildfire on amphibians depend upon burn extent and severity, isolation, and prior land use. Through subsequent effects on the parasites, our results also reveal how changes in disturbance regimes can affect communities across trophic levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-492
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Ambystoma macrodactylum
  • Amphibian decline
  • Burn severity
  • Disturbance
  • Fragmentation
  • Global climate change
  • Isolation
  • Nematode
  • Protected areas
  • Rana luteiventris
  • Synergistic effects
  • Transmission


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