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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. Population-level thermal performance of a cold-water ectotherm is linked to ontogeny and local environmental heterogeneity
Authors: Hossack BR, Lowe WH, Webb MAH, Talbott MJ, Kappenman KM, Corn PS | Date: 2013-11 | Outlet: Freshwater Biology 58:2215-2225 | Format: .PDF
1. Negative effects of global warming are predicted to be most severe for species that occupy a narrow range of temperatures, have limited dispersal abilities, or have long generation times. These are characteristics typical of many species that occupy small, cold streams.
2. Habitat use, vulnerabilities and mechanisms for coping with local conditions can differ among populations and ontogentically within populations, potentially affecting species-level responses to climate change. However, we still have little knowledge of mean thermal performance for many vertebrates, let alone variation in performance among populations. Assessment of these sources of variation in thermal performance is critical for projecting the effects of climate change on species and for identifying management strategies to ameliorate its effects.
3. To gauge how populations of the Rocky Mountain tailed frog (Ascaphus montanus) might respond to long-term effects of climate change, we measured the ability of tadpoles from six populations in Glacier National Park (Montana, USA) to acclimate to a range of temperatures. We compared survival among populations according to tadpole age (age 1-yr or 2-yr) and according to the mean and variance of late-summer temperatures in natal streams.
4. The ability of tadpoles to acclimate to warm temperatures increased with age and with variance in late-summer temperature of natal streams. Moreover, performance differed among populations from the same catchment.
5. Our experiments with a cold-water species show that population-level performance varies across small geographic scales and is linked to local environmental heterogeneity. This variation could influence the rate and mode of species-level responses to climate change, both by facilitating local persistence in the face of changes in thermal conditions, and by providing thermally-tolerant colonists to neighbouring populations.

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Steve Bobzien  
This is an ARMI Product. Accumulation of pesticides in Pacific chorus frogs Pseudacris regilla from California's Sierra Nevada mountains, USA
Authors: Smalling KL, Fellers GM, Kleeman PM, Kuivila KM | Date: 2013-07 | Outlet: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 32:2026-2034
Pesticides are receiving increasing attention as potential causes of amphibian declines, acting singly or in combination with other stressors, but limited information is available on the accumulation of current-use pesticides in tissue. The authors examined potential exposure and accumulation of currently used pesticides in pond-breeding frogs (Pseudacris regilla) collected from 7 high elevations sites in northern California. All sites sampled are located downwind of California’s highly agricultural Central Valley and receive inputs of pesticides through precipitation and/or dry deposition. Whole frog tissue, water, and sediment were analyzed for more than 90 current-use pesticides and pesticide degradates using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Two fungicides, pyraclostrobin and tebuconazole, and one herbicide, simazine, were the most frequently detected pesticides in tissue samples. Median pesticide concentration ranged from 13 mg/kg to 235 mg/kg wet weight. Tebuconazole and pyraclostrobin were the only 2 compounds observed frequently in frog tissue and sediment. Significant spatial differences in tissue concentration were observed, which corresponded to pesticide use in the upwind counties. Data generated indicated that amphibians residing in remote locations are exposed to and capable of accumulating current-use pesticides. A comparison of P. regilla tissue concentrations with water and sediment data indicated that the frogs are accumulating pesticides and are potentially a more reliable indicator of exposure to this group of pesticides than either water or sediment.

This is an ARMI Product. Roles of habitat, restoration, and drought frequency in driving long-term trends of a widespread amphibian
Authors: Hossack BR, Adams MJ, Pearl CA, Wilson KW, Bull EL, Lohr K, Patla D, Pilliod DS, Jones JM, Wheeler KK, McKay SP, Corn PS | Date: 2013-12 | Outlet: Conservation Biology 27:1410-1420 | Format: .PDF
Despite the high profile of amphibian declines and the increasing threat of drought and frag- mentation to aquatic ecosystems, few studies have examined long-term rates of change for a single species across a large geographic area. We analyzed growth in annual egg-mass counts of the Columbia spotted frog (<i>Rana luteiventris</i>) across the northwestern United States, an area encompassing 3 genetic clades. On the basis of data collected by multiple partners from 98 water bodies between 1991 and 2011, we used state-space and linear-regression models to measure effects of patch characteristics, frequency of summer drought, and wetland restoration on population growth. Abundance increased in the 2 clades with greatest decline history, but declined where populations are consideredmost secure. Population growthwas negatively associated with temporary hydroperiods and landscape modification (measured by the human footprint index), but was similar in modified and natural water bodies. The effect of drought was mediated by the size of the water body: populations in large water bodies maintained positive growth despite drought, whereas drought magnified declines in small water bodies. Rapid growth in restored wetlands in areas of historical population declines provided strong evidence of successful management. Our results highlight the importance of maintaining large areas of habitat and underscore the greater vulnerability of small areas of habitat to environmental stochasticity. Similar long-term growth rates inmodified and natural water bodies and rapid, positive responses to restoration suggest pond construction and other forms of management can effectively increase population growth. These tools are likely to become increasingly important to mitigate effects of increased drought expected from global climate change.

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