Temperate pond-breeding amphibians are vulnerable to forest fragmentation because they must access upland terrestrial sites during the nonbreeding season but are prone to desiccation in hot, dry environments without canopy cover. Harvesting techniques that retain live trees in the cut block are advocated for sustaining forest biodiversity, but the effects of these practices on amphibians are unknown. We studied red-legged frogs (Rana aurora) in movement trials to assess: 1) how short-term use of residual trees was affected by tree patch size, streams, and neighborhood features; 2) whether residual tree patches were used as stepping stones in negotiating cut blocks; 3) the effects of patch size and patch proximity in altering movement paths; and 4) the effects of retention level and patch size on interpatch distance. Residual tree patches were potentially valuable short-term refugia but their value was size dependent. Virtually all frogs released at the base of single trees or inside small tree clusters left within 72 hours, but the proportion leaving decreased curvilinearly with increasing patch size. Frogs were less likely to leave tree patches with a running stream or where neighborhood stream density was high. Residual tree patches did not systematically alter movement paths. Frogs intercepted residual tree patches mostly at random and had to be within 5–20 m of a tree patch before moving to it in greater proportions than expected by chance. However, amphibian movements were biased toward large (0.8 ha) patches and away from small (0.3 ha) patches 50 m away. Our results indicated that residual trees should not be retained singly but should be aggregated in groups between 0.8 ha and 1.5 ha, preferably in stream locations.
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Vol. 71 • No. 6