Effects of Multiple Stressors on Aquatic Communities in the Prairie Pothole Region

EPA Grant Number: R830879
Title: Effects of Multiple Stressors on Aquatic Communities in the Prairie Pothole Region
Investigators: Schoff, Pat , Guntenspergen, Glenn R. , Johnson, Carter , Johnson, Catherine , Johnson, Lucinda
Current Investigators: Schoff, Pat , Olker, Jennifer H. , Guntenspergen, Glenn R. , Johnson, Carter , Johnson, Lucinda
Institution: University of Minnesota - Duluth , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , South Dakota State University
Current Institution: University of Minnesota - Duluth
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: April 7, 2003 through April 6, 2007
Project Amount: $746,433
RFA: Developing Regional-Scale Stressor-Response Models for Use in Environmental Decision-making (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Aquatic Ecosystems


1. Quantify the relationships among factors directly affected by climate change (e.g., hydroperiod), agricultural land use, and amphibian community structure and composition in the prairie pothole region (PPR) of the U.S.

2. Quantify the relationships among physical and chemical wetland attributes (e.g., hydroperiod, thermal regime, pH, and DOC), UV-B radiation, and land use (including associated pesticide use) on amphibian organismal and community responses.

3. Quantify the effects of multiple stressors on the health and organismal responses of R. pipiens.

4. Use regional climate scenarios and hydrologic models in conjunction with empirical data from field and mesocosm studies to predict potential effects of multiple stressors on PPR wetlands and their associated amphibian communities.


We propose to investigate the potential effects of multiple stressors on the aquatic ecosystems of the PPR by quantifying relationships among stressors associated with climate change, agricultural land use, and pesticides on amphibians in the PPR. Data will be assembled from mesocosm, wetlands and landscape scales. Due to the sensitivity of amphibians to these stressors, we will use them as sentinels of the overall wetlands health.

Expected Results:

1) Empirical models of amphibian responses quantifying the nature and size of the combined effect of atrazine and hydroperiod on health and condition. 2) Empirical models predicting amphibian organismal, population, and community responses to land use and hydroperiod. 3) Measures of the geographic transferability of the community level response models. 4) Predictions of climate-driven amphibian responses across wetlands of the prairie pothole region based on detailed knowledge of the landscape and wetland hydrology and vegetation. These results could be used to assess possible interactions between stressors, to determine potential ameliorative actions as well as adaptive strategies in response to changing climate.

Estimated Improvement in Risk Assessment or Risk Management: Risk assessments are often based on community level analyses alone when determining the health of aquatic systems (Attrill and Depledge 1996). Our study will assesses amphibian responses to multiple stressors at the organismal, population, and community level, and uses the output of those analyses to predict regional responses to changing climate.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 13 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

wetland, hydroperiod, prairie pothole region, amphibian, climate change, atrazine, community, population, malformation., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Air, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, RESEARCH, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, climate change, pesticides, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring, Regional/Scaling, Environmental Monitoring, Agroecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, anthropogenic stress, anthropogenic stresses, ecological effects, ecological exposure, biomarkers, stressors, thermal stratification, UV effects, climatic influence, praire pothole region, ecosystem assessment, coastal zone, coral bleaching, natural stressors, amphibians, multiple stressors, modeling, prairie pothole region, biomonitoring, amphibian models, ecosystem indicators, regional scale impacts, water quality, agriculture, environmental stressors, aquatic ecosystems, atrazine, hydrologic modeling, Global Climate Change, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005
  • Final Report