Project overview: A pilot study to research the impact of wildfire and prescribed burns on populations and habitat of the federally threatened Yosemite Toad.

How your support helps: Fire shapes the Sierra Nevada landscape — it’s profound impacts on meadow habitats are well-documented. However, little is known about the role fire plays in the life of the meadow’s smallest and least mobile fauna, the federally threatened Yosemite Toad (Anaxyrus canorus).

With your support, this project will help biologists better understand the impact of fire on this important species, meeting a crucial need for the conservation and management of Yosemite toads. Little is known about how fire-driven changes in forest structure and composition, along with meadow hydrology, impact sensitive wildlife species and mediate the effects of recent drought on hydrologic function.

Additionally, climate change-induced drought and recent high severity wildfire is becoming increasingly common in toad habitat, not only in adjacent forest refugia but also through direct burning impacts to meadows. These disturbances raise new concerns for the persistence of these already-threatened populations. These compounding challenges necessitate monitoring to better understand the interactions among wildfire, forest structure, meadow function, and the abundance of a key indicator species.

This year: This project will be a pilot, with the goal to determine the effectiveness of the study design and to inform future paths of research on this topic. Our project will consist of measuring habitat metrics, “before and after” fire data, soil and vegetation plots, and reoccurring Yosemite toad monitoring. The new data collected on toad population status will also be compared to past monitoring data to help track current and future fire impacts on those populations.

The findings from this project can inform strategic management decisions, including how best to manage fire in the park near toad-occupied meadows. The results will also support prescribed burning planning and objectives for the Yosemite toad’s benefit, something which has never been studied before.

Project partners: Yosemite National Park

Carson Lillard

Aquatic Wildlife Biologist, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“Through this pilot study, we seek to understand the role that fires, both wild and prescribed, play in population trends and habitat characteristics of the Yosemite toad using cutting-edge scientific research, technology, and fire management techniques.”