Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Amphibian Monitoring for Ecosystem Services, Citizen Engagement and Public Policy
by LaCivita, Lisa Frances, Ph.D., George Mason University, 2018, 152; 13421066
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation has both science and policy components. The research examines the presence or absence of two amphibian species in one Virginia County. Two amphibian species Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper) and Hyla versicolor (Gray Tree Frog) are proposed to serve as a biotic indicator, or proxy, for water quality/watershed condition and ecosystem services. My dissertation hypothesized that amphibian presence of the target species would correlate with watershed integrity values, which was verified by statistical analysis. Greater amounts of amphibian presence correlated with higher watershed integrity scores. Detailed studies of amphibian occurrence, with continued monitoring, can document trends and behaviors of the target species. Facing concern for thresholds and factors that allow or limit amphibian presence, amphibian monitoring contributes to our understanding of anthropogenic impacts on biotic communities.

Both of the targeted amphibian species were distributed county-wide; occurrences were recorded in each of the major sub-watersheds. Areas surrounding the monitored road segments were calculated (using GIS technology) for the amount of areas assigned to one of four watershed integrity values. Amphibian occurrences correlated with watershed integrity scores using Spearman Rank Correlation.

What it means to possess watershed integrity sufficient to host amphibian populations brings science into the realm of public policy. Values, economics, demographics, education, politics and culture come into play. Watershed integrity, water quality and ecosystem condition, function and services directly impact human health and wellbeing, and can have profound influences on economic and cultural circumstances.

County-wide amphibian monitoring can establish an important baseline for ecological conditions, with the potential for citizen engagement. It is one more portal through which citizens may connect with the natural world. Connections to nature, along with environmental literacy and forward-looking public policies will be required to protect the ecosystem services upon which our communities depend. Monitoring for two or three amphibian species from public roads can become a citizen science effort that raises awareness of water resource issues. Aware and engaged citizens are needed to inspire governments and elected representatives to plan for 21st century conditions and sustainability. If engaging citizens, of all ages, in the workings of their own watershed will deepen their understanding of this vital, complex and dynamic system, then we may realize higher levels of water stewardship and sustainability.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lovejoy, Thomas E.
Commitee: Jones, K. Bruce, Jones, R. Christian, Talbot, Lee M.
School: George Mason University
Department: Environmental Science and Public Policy
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: DAI-B 80/07/(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Public policy, Environmental science
Keywords: Amphibian monitoring, Citizen science, Ecosystem services, Riparian right-of-way, Water policy, Watershed integrity
Publication Number: 13421066
ISBN: 9780438888944
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