Indicators of the statuses of amphibian populations and their potential for exposure to atrazine in four midwestern U.S. conservation areas

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 12;9(9):e107018. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107018. eCollection 2014.


Extensive corn production in the midwestern United States has physically eliminated or fragmented vast areas of historical amphibian habitat. Midwestern corn farmers also apply large quantities of fertilizers and herbicides, which can cause direct and indirect effects on amphibians. Limited field research regarding the statuses of midwestern amphibian populations near areas of corn production has left resource managers, conservation planners, and other stakeholders needing more information to improve conservation strategies and management plans. We repeatedly sampled amphibians in wetlands in four conservation areas along a gradient of proximity to corn production in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin from 2002 to 2005 and estimated site occupancy. We measured frequencies of gross physical deformities in recent metamorphs and triazine concentrations in the water at breeding sites. We also measured trematode infection rates in kidneys of recently metamorphosed Lithobates pipiens collected from nine wetlands in 2003 and 2004. We detected all possible amphibian species in each study area. The amount of nearby row crops was limited in importance as a covariate for estimating site occupancy. We observed deformities in <5% of metamorphs sampled and proportions were not associated with triazine concentrations. Trematode infections were high in metamorphs from all sites we sampled, but not associated with site triazine concentrations, except perhaps for a subset of sites sampled in both years. We detected triazines more often and in higher concentrations in breeding wetlands closer to corn production. Triazine concentrations increased in floodplain wetlands as water levels rose after rainfall and were similar among lotic and lentic sites. Overall, our results suggest amphibian populations were not faring differently among these four conservation areas, regardless of their proximity to corn production, and that the ecological dynamics of atrazine exposure were complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians / parasitology
  • Amphibians / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Atrazine / toxicity*
  • Breeding
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Data Collection
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Geography
  • Herbicides / toxicity
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / drug effects
  • Midwestern United States
  • Population Dynamics
  • Trematode Infections / parasitology
  • Triazines / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Wetlands
  • Zea mays / growth & development


  • Herbicides
  • Triazines
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Atrazine