Effects of an invasive plant, Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera), on development and survival of anuran larvae
Amphibians are considered one of the most threatened vertebrate groups. Although numerous studies have addressed the many causes of amphibian population decline, little is known about effects of invasive plants. Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) is an exotic deciduous tree that has invaded the southeastern United States. Amphibian larvae in environments invaded by T. sebifera may be impacted negatively as autumn leaf litter decomposes in natal areas. We compared effects of leaf litter decomposition from T. sebifera and two native tree species on survival and development of four species of anuran larvae from eastern Texas. Larvae from Pseudacris fouquettei, Lithobates (Rana) sphenocephalus, Hyla versicolor, and Incilius (Bufo) nebulifer were introduced into mesocosms containing leaf litter from one of the three tree species. Pseudacris fouquettei and L. sphenocephalus, species that breed earlier in the year, had lower survival within the T. sebifera pools. Pseudacris fouquettei were smaller in T. sebifera mesocosms compared with native tree mesocosms, whereas L. sphenocephalus were larger in T. sebifera mesocosms. Hyla versicolor showed significant developmental and morphological differences in T. sebifera mesocosms; however, survival was not significantly different among treatments. Leaf litter treatment did not affect survival or development in I. nebulifer. Our results suggest that breeding season may determine how each species survives and develops in an environment with T. sebifera leaf litter. Triadica sebifera leaf litter breaks down faster than native species; therefore, negative effects may be short lived but pose a greater threat to species that breed soon after leaffall.