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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. Potential Interactions Among Disease, Pesticides, Water Quality and Adjacent Land Cover in Amphibian Habitats in the United States
Authors: Battaglin W, Smalling K, Anderson C, Calhoun D, Chestnut T, Muths E | Date: 2016-05-24 | Outlet: Science of the Total Environment 320-332
To investigate interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality and adjacent land cover we collected samples of water, sediment, and frog tissue from 21 sites in 7 States in the United States (US) representing a variety of amphibian habitats. All samples were analyzed for > 90 pesticides and pesticide degradates, and water and frogs were screened for the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) using molecular methods. Pesticides and pesticide degradates were detected frequently in frog breeding habitats (water and sediment) as well as in frog tissue. Fungicides occurred more frequently in water, sediment, and tissue than was expected based upon their limited use relative to herbicides or insecticides. Pesticide occurrence in water or sediment was not a strong predictor of occurrence in tissue, but pesticide concentrations in tissue were correlated positively to agricultural and urban land, and negatively to forested land in 2-kilometer buffers around the sites. Bd was detected in water at 45% of sites, and on 34% of swabbed frogs. Bd detections in water were not associated with differences in land use around sites, but sites with detections had colder water. Frogs that tested positive for Bd were associated with sites that had higher total fungicide concentrations in water and sediment, but lower insecticide concentrations in sediments relative to frogs that were Bd negative. Bd concentrations on frog swabs were positively correlated to dissolved organic carbon, and total nitrogen and phosphorus, and negatively correlated to pH and water temperature.
Data were collected from a range of locations and amphibian habitats and represent some of the first field-collected information aimed at understanding the interactions between pesticides, land use, and amphibian disease. These interactions are of particular interest to conservation efforts as many amphibians live in altered habitats and may depend on wetlands embedded in these landscapes to survive.

This is an ARMI Product. Quantitative evidence for the effects of multiple drivers on continental-scale amphibian declines
Authors: Grant EHC, Miller DAW, Schmidt BR, Adams MJ, Amburgey SM, Chambert TC, Cruickshank SS, Fisher RN, Green DM, Hossack BR, Johnson PTJ, Joseph MB, Rittenhouse T, Ryan M, Waddle JH, Walls SC, Bailey LL, Fellers GM, Gorman TA, Ray AM, Pilliod DS, Price SJ, Saenz D, Muths E | Outlet: Scientific Reports xx:xxx-xxx
Since amphibian declines were first proposed as a global phenomenon over a quarter century ago, the conservation community has made little progress in halting or reversing these trends. The early search for a "smoking gun" was replaced with the expectation that declines are caused by multiple drivers. While field observations and experiments have identified factors leading to increased local extinction risk, evidence for effects of these drivers is lacking at large spatial scales. Here, we use observations of 389 time-series of 83 species and complexes from 61 study areas across North America to test the effects of 4 of the major hypothesized drivers of declines. While we find that local amphibian populations are being lost from metapopulations at an average rate of 3.79% per year, these declines are not related to any particular threat at the continental scale; likewise the effect of each stressor is variable at regional scales. This result - that exposure to threats varies spatially, and populations vary in their response - provides little generality in the development of conservation strategies. Greater emphasis on local solutions to this globally shared phenomenon is needed.

Heat map of the USA showing the total relative risk of [I]Bsal[/I] to native US salamanders based on the introduction and consequences assessent
This is an ARMI Product. Spatial variation in risk and consequence of Batrachochytrium salamanderivorans introduction in the United States
Authors: Richgels K, Russell R, Adams M, Grant E | Date: 2016-02-17 | Outlet: Royal Society Open Science 3:150616 | Format: .PDF
A newly identified fungal pathogen, <i>Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans</i> (<i>Bsal</i>), is responsible for mass mortality events and severe population declines in European salamanders. The eastern USA has the highest diversity of salamanders in the world and the introduction of this pathogen is likely to be devastating. Although data is inevitably limited for new pathogens, disease risk assessments utilize best available data to inform management decisions. Using characteristics of <i>Bsal</i> ecology, spatial data on imports and pet trade establishments, and salamander species diversity, we identify high risk areas with both a high likelihood of introduction and severe consequences for local salamanders. We predict that the Pacific coast, southern Appalachian Mountains, and mid-Atlantic regions will have the highest relative risk from <i>Bsal</i>. Management of invasive pathogens becomes difficult once they are established in wildlife populations; therefore, import restrictions to limit pathogen introduction and early detection through surveillance of high risk areas are priorities for preventing the next crisis for North American salamanders

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