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Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

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Climate Change

Ground truthing
Robert Fisher and Stacey Hathaway (ARMI) ground-truthing potential desert-frog breeding sites selected using remote sensing of soil characteristics derived from known breeding site. Photo by: C. Schwalbe.

Freshwater wetlands provide critical habitat for a diverse array of organisms including many amphibians. Yet, under the continued impacts of water diversions and the newer threats of climate change, these habitats are among the most imperiled ecosystems on Earth. Climate change has the potential to alter many sources of water critical to the habitats amphibians need, especially those associated with breeding and development. Potential changes include: change in timing and availability of water from glacier melt, snow and rain timing and amount; persistence of vernal pools and seasonal wetlands; altered evapotranspiration rates; and reduced stream flows and groundwater recharge rates.

Other ecosystem components likely to change in response to climate change include the timing and frequency of fires, the spread of invasive plants and animals, and microclimates in which the animals live.

ARMI Products on Climate Change

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This is an ARMI Product. Quantifying Climate Sensitivity and Climate Driven Change in North American Amphibian Communities
Authors: Miller, DAW, | Outlet: Nature Communications
We quantified the response of amphibian communities to climatic variability across the United States and Canada using more than 500,000 observations for 81 species across 86 study areas. We estimated the relationships between annual variation in climate variables and local colonization and persistence probabilities across more than 5000 surveyed sites. This allowed us to estimate sensitivity to change in five climate variables. Climate sensitivity differs greatly among eco-regions and depends on local climate, species life-history, and phylogeny. Local species richness was especially sensitive to changes in water availability during breeding and changes in winter temperature. These results allowed us to ask whether changing climate explains strong overall rates of decline in species richness observed in our data set. We found that recent change in the climate variables we measured does not explain why North American amphibian richness is rapidly declining, but does explain why some populations decline faster than others. 

Elizabeth Gallegos, USGS  
This is an ARMI Product. Chapter D. Summary and conclusions.
Authors: Schroeder RA, Gallegos EA, Smith GA, Martin P, Fisher RN | Date: 2015 | Outlet: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report pp 97-106
Hydrological and biological investigations were done during 2005 and 2006 in cooperation with the U.S. National Park Service at Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park, Piute Spring in Mojave National Preserve, and Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park where discharge from springs or groundwater seeps sustains rare perennial streams in the otherwise arid environment of the Mojave Desert in which surface water is scarce and usually ephemeral. The study collected data on water quantity (discharge), temperature, water quality, and endemic anuran (frog and toad) populations and their health. In addition, a single survey of endemic anuran populations and their health was completed at Rattlesnake Canyon in the Joshua Tree National Park. Results from this study were compared to historical data, and can provide a baseline for future hydrological and biological investigations to evaluate health and sustainability of the resource as well as its response to changing climate and increases in human use.

T. Garner  
This is an ARMI Product. Heterogeneous responses of temperate-zone amphibian populations to climate change complicates conservation planning
Authors: Muths E, Chambert T, Schmidt BR, Miller DAW, Hossack BR, Joly P, Grolet O, Green DM, Pilliod DS, Cheylan M, Fisher RN, McCaffery RM, Adams MJ, Palen WJ, Arntzen JW, Garwood J, Fellers G, Thirion J-M, Besnard A, Grant EHC | Date: 2017-12 | Outlet: Scientific Reports. DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-17105-7 | Format: .PDF
The pervasive and unabated nature of global amphibian declines suggests common demographic responses to a given driver, and quantification of major drivers and responses could inform broad-scale conservation actions. We explored the influence of climate on demographic parameters (i.e., changes in the probabilities of survival and recruitment) using 31 datasets from temperate zone amphibian populations (North America and Europe) with more than a decade of observations each. There was evidence for an influence of climate on population demographic rates, but the direction and magnitude of responses to climate drivers was highly variable among taxa and among populations within taxa. These results reveal that climate drivers interact with variation in life-history traits and population-specific attributes resulting in a diversity of responses. This heterogeneity complicates the identification of conservation ?rules of thumb? for these taxa, and supports the notion of local focus as the most effective approach to overcome global-scale conservation challenges.

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