National Park Service

Gulf Coast Network (GULN)

Amphibian and Reptile Monitoring

American toad at Vicksburg National Military Park Rio Grand Chirping Frog at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

GULN Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring Brief

GULN Amphibian & Reptile Inventory Reports

GULN Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring Protocol Summary

GULN Amphibian and Reptile Monitoring Reports


All Gulf Coast Network parks host breeding populations of diverse amphibian and reptile (herpetofuana) species. Key reasons for monitoring amphibians and reptiles in network parks are that (1) various species are specifically identified in the management objectives of some of the parks; (2) herpetofaunal species are widely considered to be effective indicators of the quality and condition of park aquatic and wetland systems; (3) comparable regional and national programs, methodologies, and datasets exist for herpetofauna monitoring; and (4) some species have, or have the potential, for legal mandates for monitoring under provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

Parks to be Monitored

  • Big Thicket National Preserve (BITH)
  • Gulf Island National Seashore (GUIS)
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (JELA)
  • Natchez Trace Parkway (NATR)
  • Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS)
  • Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (PAAL)
  • San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (SAAN)
  • Vicksburg National Military Park (VICK)

Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine annual changes in species composition and relative abundance patterns for common species of adult herpetofauna in selected habitats on each sampled park.
  • Estimate and assess annual status and changes in reproductive success of selected amphibian species in selected breeding habitats (ponds, streams, wetlands) on each sampled park.
  • Investigate adult herpetofuana habitat relationships and how they relate to vegetation structural changes due to either natural or human-induced processes. (The GULN Vegetation Structure and Composition monitoring protocol will help to address this issue.)

Basic Approach

This is a composite monitoring protocol comprised of several park-specific projects designed to address park-specific management concerns. Each project is a stand-alone monitoring effort using one or more standard herpetological monitoring methods. Sampling approaches emphasize the use of passive techniques to limit harm to park fauna caused by some sampling methodologies. Project selection, design, and scale are specifically intended to provide assessment of the resources in a focal area on a park; most projects are NOT intended to provide inference across the entire park.

Key Standardized Sampling Methods

  • Cover-Board Arrays (CB) Long-term placement of metal or wood boards in fixed arrays in selected terrestrial monitoring sites. Provides species, frequency, occupancy, age, size and sex data.
  • PVC-pipe Tree Samplers (PVC) A passive sampling method suitable for tracking adult tree frogs in forested habitats. Provides species, frequency, occupancy, and population characteristics.
  • Funnel Traps (FT) Short-term samplers deployed in arrays in shallow water to collect aquatic amphibians. Provides occupancy, species, frequency, and developmental data on larval and aquatic adult amphibians.
  • Mark-Recapture (MR) Used to track individuals through space and time (growth, longevity, fate, movement, population size, habitat use, and reproductive assessment. Used for Texas tortoise and Gulf coast box turtles.
  • Visual Encounter Surveys (VES) Time- or area-limited technique where observers walk transects and observe individuals and their position relative to the transect path. Provides occupancy, density , species richness, location, and frequency for surface-active species.


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Last Updated: May 17, 2017 Contact Webmaster