Data_Sheet_1_Estimating the potential drivers of dispersal outcomes for juvenile gopher frogs (Rana capito) using agent-based models.docx
Among mobile terrestrial animals, movement among microsites can allow individuals to behaviorally moderate their body temperatures and rates of water loss, which can have important consequences for activity times, growth, fecundity, and survival. Ground-layer vegetation can change the availability and variability of microclimates; however, gaps in our understanding of how individuals interact with the microclimates created by vegetation limit our ability to inform management actions for wildlife. Amphibians can simultaneously balance operant body temperatures and water loss and the availability of heterogeneous microclimates should moderate how effectively they are able to do so. However, relatively few studies have attempted to mechanistically demonstrate how ground vegetation-driven effects on microclimatic variation may affect amphibian performance and survival. Agent-based modeling (ABM) can incorporate behavior and other mechanisms to understand how animals interact with their environments to result in larger scale patterns. They are effective for exploring alternative scenarios and representing the uncertainty in systems. Here, we use ABMs to integrate field and laboratory measurements of movement behavior, physiology, and plant effects on near-ground microclimate to explore how ground vegetation and the availability of terrestrial refugia may affect the survival and terrestrial distributions of juvenile gopher frogs (Rana capito) under two weather regimes. We also examine how assumptions regarding micro-scale movement (< 1 m2) affect the influence of ground vegetation on survival and settlement within refugia. While all variables affected settlement and survival, our models predict that inter-annual variation in weather and the density and spatial distribution of permanent refugia likely have the greatest influence on juvenile survival. The benefit of increased ground vegetation was dependent on the reasonable assumption that gopher frogs exhibit microclimate habitat selection throughout the day and night to limit water loss. Our models suggest that vegetation would be most beneficial to amphibians under warmer weather regimes provided there is sufficient rainfall.