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Author: DiRenzo GV | Outlet: Biological Conservation
One of the leading causes of global amphibian decline is emerging infectious disease. We summarize the disease ecology of four major emerging amphibian infectious agents: chytrids, ranaviruses, trematodes, and Perkinsea. We focus on recently developed quantitative advances that build on well-established ecological theories and aid in studying epizootic and enzootic disease dynamics. For example, we identify ecological and evolutionary selective forces that determine disease outcomes and transmission pathways by borrowing ideas from population and community ecology theory. We outline three topics of general interest in disease ecology: (i) the relationship between biodiversity and disease risk, (ii) individual, species, or environmental transmission heterogeneity, and (iii) pathogen coinfections. Finally, we identify specific knowledge gaps impeding the success of conservation-related decisions for disease mitigation and the future of amphibian conservation success.

Kelsey Ruehling, USGS  
This is an ARMI Product. Monitoring Protocol Development and Assessment for Narrowly Endemic Toads in Nevada, 2018
Authors: Halstead BJ, Kleeman PM, Duarte A, Rose JP, Urquhart K, Mellison C, Guadalupe K, Cota M, Killion A, Ruehling K, Van Horne R | Date: 2019-06-18 | Outlet: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1067 | Format: .PDF
Several species and subspecies of toads are endemic to small spring systems in the Great Basin, and their restricted ranges and habitat extent makes them vulnerable to environmental perturbations. Very little is known about several of these toad populations, so a group of stakeholders including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Department Of Wildlife, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Forest Service, and Oregon State University met to discuss information needs on these populations and to develop a monitoring protocol that would detect population changes over time. In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey implemented the proposed survey protocol, a multi-state occupancy design, for three sites: Dixie Valley , Railroad Valley, and Hot Creek, to evaluate its ease of implementation and effectiveness. We found that the multi-state occupancy protocol worked well in the Dixie Valley and, with some refinement, would likely work well in the Railroad Valley. We suggest that capture-mark-recapture of adults might be a more effective approach at Hot Creek. For most life stages of most populations, detection probabilities were positively related to survey duration up to 20 minutes, and the best time of day to conduct surveys varied by life stage and population. We make population-specific suggestions for the number of surveys and their timing and duration. Annual surveys using the suggested survey protocols will likely allow estimation of trends in the proportion of area of each population existing in different population states (occupied, occupied with evidence of reproduction, and unoccupied) and in most cases can be readily implemented with minimal training or handling of toads.

E Muths  
This is an ARMI Product. A continuum of risk tolerance: Reintroductions of toads in the Rockies
Authors: Muths E, Wright FB, Bailey LL | Outlet: book - Susan Walls | Format: .PDF
Success in reintroducing amphibians may be more context- than detail-dependent such that a slavish adherence to protocol may not foster success better than a more intuitive approach. We provide two reintroduction case studies for boreal toads where the approach was different, but where both resulted in gains in understanding, including first estimates of survival for boreal toads from a reintroduced population. Given the effects of disease on amphibian populations and the potential for disease to remain in a system after extirpation, there is a need to restructure reintroduction guidelines. Maintaining populations on the landscape through reintroductions provides an opportunity for the development of resistance and may facilitate species persistence into the future. But to be effective, care in understanding the context of the reintroduction and a re-envisioning of guidelines is necessary.

E Muths  
This is an ARMI Product. Integrating amphibian movement studies across scales better informs conservation decisions
Authors: Bailey LL, Muths E | Date: 2019-07 | Outlet: Biological Conservation | Format: .PDF
Numerous papers have highlighted the need to integrate amphibian research and conservation across multiple scales. Despite this, most amphibian movement studies focus on a single level of organization (e.g., local population) and a single life stage (e.g., adults) and many suggest potential conservation actions or imply that the information is useful to conservation, yet these presumptions are rarely clarified or tested. Movement studies to date provide little information to guide conservation decisions directly because they fail to integrate movement across scales with individual or population parameters (i.e., fitness metrics); this is exacerbated by a general failure to set movement studies in a probabilistic context. An integrative approach allows prediction of population or metapopulation responses to environmental changes and different management actions, thus directly informing conservation decisions and ‘moving the needle’ towards an informed application of conservation actions. To support this perspective we: 1) revisit reviews of amphibian movement to illustrate the focus on single scales and to underscore the importance of movement – at all scales – to conservation; 2) make the case that movement, breeding, and other demographic probabilities are intertwined and studies executed at different temporal and spatial scales can aid in understanding species’ responses to varying environmental and/or management conditions; 3) identify limitations of existing movement-related research to predict conservation action outcomes and inform decision-making; and 4) highlight under-utilized quantitative approaches that facilitate research that either connects movement to fitness metrics (individual-level studies) or estimates population and metapopulation vital rates in addition to, or associated with, movement probabilities.

This is an ARMI Product. Conservation research across scales in a national program: how to be relevant to local management yet general at the same time
Authors: Adams MJ, Muths E | Date: 2019-08 | Outlet: Biological Conservation 236:100-106 | Format: .PDF
Successfully addressing complex conservation problems requires attention to pattern and process at multiple spatial scales. This is challenging from a logistical and organizational perspective. In response to indications of worldwide declines in amphibian populations, the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) of the U.S. Geological Survey was established in 2000. This national program is unique in its structure, organization, and success in integrating information at multiple scales. ARMI works under the principle that a good study design is tailored to specific questions, but stipulates the use of methods that result in unbiased parameter estimates (e.g., occupancy). This allows studies to be designed to address local questions but also to produce data that can easily be scaled up to accomplish the objectives of a broad-scale monitoring program. Here we describe how the implementation of the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative results in research that is applicable across scales – global, in contributing to the understanding of amphibian decline phenomena; continental, in synthesizing local data to understand large-scale drivers; regional, by characterizing threats and assessing status of species at the range scale; and local, by working with National Park, Wildlife Refuge, and other Federal and State land managers to identify research needs and serve conservation-relevant research results to inform management decisions.

This is an ARMI Product. A three-pipe problem: dealing with complexity to halt amphibian declines
Authors: Converse S, Grant EHC | Outlet: Biological Conservation
Natural resource managers are increasingly faced with threats to managed ecosystems that are largely outside of their control. Examples include land development, climate change, invasive species, and emerging infectious diseases. All of these are characterized by large uncertainties in timing, magnitude, and effects on species. In many cases, the conservation of species will only be possible through concerted action on the limited elements of the system that managers can control. However, before an action is taken, a manager must decide how to act, which is ? if done well ? not easy. In addition to dealing with uncertainty, managers must balance multiple potentially competing objectives, often in cases when the management actions available to them are limited. Guidance in making these types of challenging decisions can be found in the practice known as decision analysis. We demonstrate how using a decision-analytic approach to frame decisions can help identify and address impediments to improved conservation decision making. We demonstrate the application of decision analysis to two high-elevation amphibian species. An inadequate focus on the decision-making process, and an assumption that scientific information is adequate to solve conservation problems, must be overcome to advance the conservation of amphibians and other highly threatened taxa.

This is an ARMI Product. Effect of amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) on apparent survival of frogs and toads in the western USA
Authors: Russell RE, Halstead BJ, Mosher BA, Muths E, Adams MJ, Grant EHC, Fisher RN, Kleeman PM, Backlin AR, Pearl CA, Honeycut RK, Hossack BR | Outlet: Biological Conservation
Despite increasing interest in determining the population-level effects of emerging infectious diseases on wildlife, estimating effects of disease on survival rates remains difficult. Even for a well-studied disease such as amphibian chytridiomycosis (caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis [Bd]), there are few estimates of how survival of wild hosts is affected. We applied hierarchical models to long-term capture-mark-recapture data (mean = 10.6 yrs, range = 6?15 yrs) from >5500 uniquely-marked individuals to estimate the effect of Bd on apparent survival of four threatened or endangered ranid frog species (Rana draytonii, R. muscosa, R. pretiosa, R. sierrae) at 14 study sites in California and Oregon (USA) and one bufonid toad (Anaxyrus boreas) at two study sites in Wyoming and Montana. Our models indicated that the presence of Bd on an individual reduced apparent survival of ranid frogs by ~6?15% depending on species and sex. The estimated difference between toads with and without Bd was 19% for the Montana population and 55% for the Wyoming population; however, the 95% Credible Interval of these estimates included zero. These results provide evidence for negative effects of Bd on survival in wild populations even in the absence of obvious die-offs. Determining what factors influence the magnitude of the effects of Bd on wildlife populations is an important next step toward identifying management actions. These estimates of Bd effects are important for understanding the extent and severity of disease, whether disease effects have changed over time, and for informing management actions.

This is an ARMI Product. Identifying common decision problem elements for the management of emerging fungal diseases of wildlife
Authors: Bernard RF, Grant EHC | Outlet: Society and Natural Resources
Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) of wildlife have characteristics that make them difficult to manage, leading to reactive and often ineffective management strategies. Currently, two fungal pathogens, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), are causing declines in novel host species. To improve the application of management strategies to address the risk of these pathogens to North American wildlife, we queried wildlife managers about their concerns regarding managing populations of bats and amphibians potentially impacted by Pd and Bsal. Using these responses, we identified aspects of each decision problem that were shared across pathogens, regions and agencies ? and found similarities in decision problem elements for disease management. Reframing management problems as decisions can enable managers to identify similarities across EIDs, i.e. uncertainties within management actions, and improve reactive responses if proactive management is not possible. Such an approach recognizes context-specific constraints and identifies relevant uncertainties that must be reduced in developing a response.

This is an ARMI Product. Salamander chytrid fungus risk assessment on Department of Defense Installations.
Authors: Petersen C, Richgels KLD, Lockhart G, Lovich R | Date: 2018-12-01 | Outlet: Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program | Format: .PDF
The United States Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (DoD PARC) network and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center developed this report to serve as an informational tool to assess which U.S. military installations may be at risk to Bsal introduction, improve the potential response to an outbreak, and help prioritize relevant actions on their respective installations if this fungal pathogen were to be introduced into the U.S. Since 2015, DoD PARC has been directly involved in identifying research, monitoring, and management strategies for Bsal (Grant et al. 2015). The military installations included in this assessment were those documented to have confirmed presence of salamander species as determined by a 2017 inventory of herpetofauna of military lands

This is an ARMI Product. North-facing slopes and elevation shape asymmetric genetic structure in the range-restricted salamander Plethodon shenandoah
Authors: Mulder K, Cortes-Rodriguez N, Grant EHC, Brand AB, Fleischer RC | Outlet: Ecology and Evolution
Species with narrow environmental preferences are often distributed across fragmented patches of suitable habitat, and dispersal among subpopulations can be difficult to directly observe. Genetic data collected at population centers can help quantify gene flow, which is especially important for vulnerable species with a disjunct range. Plethodon shenandoah is a Federally Endangered salamander known only from three mountaintops in Virginia, USA. To reconstruct the evolutionary history and population connectivity of this species, we generated both mitochondrial and nuclear data using sequence capture for all three populations and found strong population structure that was independent of geographic distance. Both the nuclear markers and mitochondrial genome indicated a deep split between the most southern population and the combined central and northern population. Although there was some mitochondrial haplotype-splitting between the central and northern populations, there was complete admixture in nuclear markers. This is indicative of either a recent split or current male-biased dispersal among mountain isolates. Models of landscape resistance found that dispersal across north-facing slopes at mid-elevation levels best explain the observed genetic structure among populations. These unexpected results highlight the importance of landscape features in understanding and predicting movement and fragmentation of salamanders across space.