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Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

ARMI » Topics » Stressors


Gary Fellers, air quality.
G. Fellers (ARMI) changing a filter in an air sampler that is used to measure agricultural chemicals that drift into Yosemite NP, California. Photo by: J. Fellers.

Declines in amphibian populations have occurred not only on areas clearly impacted by human activities such as urbanization, but also on protected lands intended to buffer amphibians and other wildlife from anthropogenic disturbances. Some stressors are not stopped by preserve boundaries and can affect wildlife populations 10's or 100's of kilometers from their source or point of use. For example, pesticides, fertilizers, or supplements given to livestock can be transported from the terrestrial setting where they are applied, to aquatic environments via precipitation, run-off, erosion, wind, and misuse. Conversely, some contaminants such as mercury or selenium occur naturally, but can be concentrated, or disturbed and released into the environment by human activities. Amphibian populations can be exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, producing novel conditions with unknown outcomes.

ARMI scientists conduct research to identify stressors and evaluate their impacts on amphibian individuals and populations.

ARMI Products on Stressors

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This is an ARMI Product. Non-native and native organisms moving into high elevation and high latitude ecosystems in an era of climate change: new challenges for ecology and conservation
Authors: Albihn A, Alexander J, Burgess T, Daehler C, Englund G, Essl F, Evengård B, Greenwood G, Haider S, Lenoir J, McDougall K, Muths E, Nuñez M, Olofsson J, Pellissier L, Rabitsch W, Rew L, Robertson M, Sanders N, Kueffer C, Milbau A, Pauchard A | Date: 2016 | Outlet: Biological Invasions | Format: .PDF
Cold environments at high elevation and high latitude are often viewed as resistant to biological invasions. However, climate warming, land use change and associated increased connectivity all increase the risk of biological invasions in these environments. Here we present a summary of the key discussions of the workshop ‘Biosecurity in Mountains and Northern Ecosystems: Current Status and Future Challenges’ (Flen, Sweden, 1-3 June 2015). The aims of the workshop were to (i) increase awareness about the growing importance of species expansion – both non-native and native – at high elevation and high latitude with climate change, (ii) review existing knowledge about invasion risks in these areas, and (iii) encourage more research on how species will move and interact in cold environments, and the consequences for animal and human health and wellbeing. The diversity of potential and actual invaders reported at the workshop and the likely interactions between them create major challenges for managers of cold environments. However, since these cold environments have experienced fewer invasions when compared with many warmer, more populated environments, prevention has a real chance of success, especially if it is coupled with prioritisation schemes for targeting invaders likely to have greatest impact. Communication and co-operation between cold environment regions will facilitate rapid response and maximise use of limited research and management resources.

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E Muths  
This is an ARMI Product. Restored agricultural wetlands in central Iowa: habitat quality and amphibian response
Authors: Reeves RA, Pierce CL, Smalling KL, Klaver RW, Vandever MW, Battaglin WA, Muths E | Date: 2016-02 | Outlet: Wetlands | Format: .PDF
Amphibians are declining throughout the United States and worldwide due, partly, to habitat loss. The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) strategically restores wetlands to denitrify tile drainage effluent and restore ecosystem services. Understanding how eutrophication , hydroperiod, predation, and disease affect amphibians in restored wetlands is central to maintaining healthy amphibian populations in the region. We examined the quality of amphibian habitat in restored CREP wetlands relative to reference wetlands by comparing species richness, developmental stress, and adult leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) survival probabilities to a suite of environmental metrics. Although measured habitat variables differed between restored and reference wetlands, differences appeared to have sub-lethal rather than lethal effects on resident populations . There were few differences in amphibian species richness and no difference in estimated survival probabilities between wetland types. Restored wetlands had more nitrate and alkaline pH, longer hydroperiods, and were deeper, whereas reference wetlands had more amphibian chytrid fungus zoospores and resident amphibians exhibited increased developmental stress. Restored and reference wetlands are both important components of the landscape in central Iowa and maintaining a complex of fish-free wetlands with a variety of hydroperiods will likely contribute to the persistence of amphibians in this landscape.

[I]Pseudacris regilla[/I] with hemimelia.
D. Cowman  
This is an ARMI Product. In situ effects of pesticides on amphibians in the Sierra Nevada
Authors: Sparling DW, Bickham J, Cowman D, Fellers GM, Lacher L, Matson CW, McConnell LL | Date: 2015-03 | Outlet: Ecotoxicology 24:262-278 | Format: URL
For more than 20 years, conservationists have agreed that amphibian populations around the world are declining. Results obtained through laboratory or mesocosm studies and measurement of contaminant concentrations in areas experiencing declines have supported a role of contaminants in these declines. The current study examines the effects of contaminant exposure to amphibians in situ in areas actually experiencing declines. Early larval Pseudacris regilla were translocated among Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, California, USA and caged in wetlands in 2001 and 2002 until metamorphosis. Twenty contaminants were identified in tadpoles with an average of 1.3–5.9 (maximum = 10) contaminants per animal. Sequoia National Park, which had the greatest variety and concentrations of contaminants in 2001, also had tadpoles that experienced the greatest mortality, slowest developmental rates and lowest cholinesterase activities. Yosemite and Sequoia tadpoles and metamorphs had greater genotoxicity than those in Lassen during 2001, as determined by flow cytometry. In 2001 tadpoles at Yosemite had a significantly higher rate of malformations, characterized as hemimelia (shortened femurs), than those at the other two parks but no significant differences were observed in 2002. Fewer differences in contaminant types and concentrations existed among parks during 2002 compared to 2001. In 2002 Sequoia tadpoles had higher mortality and slower developmental rates but there was no difference among parks in cholinesterase activities. Although concentrations of most contaminants were below known lethal concentrations, simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals and other stressors may have resulted in lethal and sublethal effects.

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