Larissa Bailey (Colorado State), USGS, FWS, and SCC volunteers building vernal pools at Patuxent NWR, to adaptively manage for climate change. Photo by: A. Green.
Only a few years ago, amphibians were rarely considered in the development and implementation of management plans. But now, it’s not uncommon to see amphibian populations as the primary targets of management activities.
ARMI scientists conduct research on the impacts of various traditional management actions on amphibians, and have worked with partners to develop and test novel management options specifically to benefit amphibians.
Important decisions are made every day on management and policy that affect multiple wildlife species. ARMI works with its partners in Federal and State agencies to develop processes for structuring their natural resource decisions to achieve their conservation objectives related to amphibians.
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Animal reintroductions: an innovative assessment of survival
Authors: Muths E, Bailey LL, Watry MK | Date: 2014-06 | Outlet: Biological Conservation xx:xxx-xxx
Quantitative evaluations of reintroductions are infrequent and assessments of milestones reached before a project is completed, or abandoned due to lack of funding, are rare. However, such assessments, which are promoted in adaptive management frameworks, are critical. Quantification can provide defensible estimates of biological success, such as the number of survivors from a released cohort, with associated cost per animal. It is unlikely that the global issues of endangered wildlife and population declines will abate, therefore, assurance colonies and reintroductions are likely to become more common. If such endeavors are to be successful biologically or achieve adequate funding, implementation must be more rigorous and accountable. We use a novel application of a multistate, robust design capture-recapture model to estimate survival of reintroduced tadpoles through metamorphosis (i.e., the number of individuals emerging from the pond) and thereby provide a quantitative measure of effort and success for an “in progress” reintroduction of toads. Our data also suggest that tadpoles released at later developmental stages have an increased probability of survival and that eggs laid in the wild hatched at higher rates than eggs laid by captive toads. We illustrate how an interim assessment can identify problems, highlight successes, and provide information for use in adjusting the effort or implementing a Decision-Theoretic adaptive management strategy.
Population declines lead to replicate patterns of internal range structure at the tips of the distribution of the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii)
Authors: Richmond JQ, Backlin AR, Tatarian PJ, Solvesky BG, Fisher RN | Date: 2014 | Outlet: Biological Conservation | Format: .PDF
Demographic declines and increased isolation of peripheral populations of the threatened California red-legged frog(Rana draytonii)have led to the formation of internal range boundaries at opposite ends of the species’ distribution. While the population genetics of the southern internal boundary has been studied in some detail, similar information is lacking for the northern part of the range. In this study, we used microsatellite and mtDNA data to examine the genetic structuring and diversity of some of the last remaining R. draytonii populations in the northern Sierra Nevada, which collectively form the northern external range boundary. We compared these data to coastal populations in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the species is notably more abundant and still exists throughout much of its historic range. We show that ‘external’ Sierra Nevada populations have lower genetic diversity and are more differentiated from one another than their ‘internal’ Bay Area counterparts. This same pattern was mirrored across the distribution in California, where Sierra Nevada and Bay Area populations had lower allelic variability compared to those previously studied in coastal southern California. This genetic signature of northward range expansion was mirrored in the phylogeography of mtDNA haplotypes; northern Sierra Nevada haplotypes showed greater similarity to haplotypes from the south Coast Ranges than to the more geographically proximate populations in the Bay Area. These data cast new light on the geographic origins of Sierra Nevada R. draytonii populations and highlight the importance of distinguishing the genetic effects of contemporary demographic declines from underlying signatures of historic range expansion when addressing the most immediate threats to population persistence. Because there is no evidence of contemporary gene flow between any of the Sierra Nevada R. draytonii populations, we suggest that management activities should focus on maintaining and creating additional ponds to support breeding within typical dispersal distances of occupied habitat.
Chilled Frogs are Hot: Hibernation and Reproduction of the Endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (Rana muscosa)
Authors: Santana FE, Swaisgood RR, Lemm JM, Fisher RN, Clark RW | Date: 2015-02-11 | Outlet: Endangered Species Research 27:43-51 | Format: .PDF
In the face of the sixth great extinction crisis, it is imperative to establish effective breeding protocols for amphibian conservation breeding programs. Efforts should not proceed by trial and error, nor should they jump prematurely to assisted reproduction techniques, which can be invasive, difficult, costly, and, at times, counterproductive. Instead, conservation practitioners should first look to nature for guidance, and replicate key conditions found in nature in the captive environment, according to the ecological and behavioral requirements of the species. We tested the effect of a natural hibernation regime on reproductive behaviors and health in the critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa). Hibernation had a clear effect on reproductive behavior, manifesting in vocal advertisement signaling, female receptivity, amplexus, and oviposition. These behaviors are critical components of courtship that lead to successful reproduction. Our main finding was that R. muscosa requires a hibernation period for successful reproduction as only hibernated females produced eggs and only hibernated males successfully fertilized eggs. Although hibernation also negatively impacted body condition, it did so without any evident declines in frog health. This dependency on hibernation is not surprising since it is a major component of the conditions that R. muscosa experiences in the wild. Similar approaches to test hypotheses based on mimicking natural ecological conditions should be used in other amphibian conservation breeding programs to ensure that captive assurance colonies can play their role as genetic reservoirs for assurance and reintroduction.