Although regulatory agencies in the USA typically require 3–5 yr of post-restoration monitoring of biotic responses to wetland mitigation, many researchers have argued that longer time frames are needed to assess population responses adequately. We conducted an 8–yr study to examine the demographic responses of the wood frog (Rana sylvatica) and spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) to wetland creation at a mitigation bank in western North Carolina. Our primary goals were to compare juvenile output in ten reference and ten constructed ponds and to assess the overall change in breeding population size in response to site restoration. We used annual censuses of egg masses to assess changes in breeding population size and used estimates of larval population size at hatching and the initiation of metamorphosis to assess embryonic and larval survival. Adults of both species bred in most constructed ponds within a few months after filling in 1996. Estimated juvenile production from 1996 to 2002 did not differ significantly between pond types for either species. The percentage of both constructed and reference ponds that produced juveniles decreased markedly from 1996 to 1998 and remained low through 2002. The decrease in juvenile output was mostly associated with reduced larval survival rather than increased embryonic mortality across years. Drought and outbreaks of a pathogen (Ranavirus) were the primary causes of low juvenile production from 1998 to 2002. The overall breeding population of R. sylvatica increased markedly in 1999–2000 following a large recruitment of juveniles from constructed ponds in 1996–1997. With the onset of drought and ranaviral infections, the population declined to levels in 2002 that were at or below 1995 pre-restoration numbers. Despite site perturbations, the breeding population of A. maculatum remained relatively stable from 1995 to 2002, a phenomenon that may reflect selection for delayed reproduction and iteroparity in this species. Although we have monitored R. sylvatica and A. maculatum for seven breeding seasons after the creation of seasonal wetlands, we are still uncertain that site restoration will achieve the goal of increasing breeding populations above pre-restoration levels. Because amphibians have significant population lags and are sensitive to site perturbations, monitoring that exceeds five years may be required to assess demographic responses to site restoration adequately.
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Vol. 23 • No. 2