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.

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

Stressors - ARMI Papers & Reports

Papers & Reports Effects of harmful algal blooms on amphibians and reptiles are underreported and underrepresented
Authors: Brian J Tornabene; Kelly L Smalling; Blake R Hossack
Date: 2024-07-05 | Outlet: Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a persistent and increasing problem globally, yet we still have a limited knowledge about how they affect many wildlife. Although semi-aquatic and aquatic amphibians and reptiles have experienced large declines and occupy environments where HABs are increasingly problematic, their vulnerability to HABs remains unclear. To inform monitoring, management, and future studies, we conducted a literature review and synthesized studies and reported mortality events describing effects of cyanotoxins from HABs on freshwater herpetofauna. Our review identified 37 unique studies and 71 endpoints (no-observed-effect and lowest-observed-effect concentrations) involving 11 amphibian and three reptile species worldwide. Responses varied widely among studies, species, and concentrations used in experiments. Concentrations causing lethal and sublethal effects in experiments were generally 1–100 µg/L, which is near the mean value of reported events but 70times less than the maximum cyanotoxin concentrations reported in the environment. However, one species of amphibian was tolerant to concentrations of 10,000 µg/L, demonstrating potentially immense differences in sensitivities. Most studies focused on microcystin-LR (MC-LR), which can increase systemic inflammation and harm the digestive system, reproductive organs, liver and kidneys, and development. The few studies on other cyanotoxins illustrated that effects resembled those of MC-LR at similar concentrations, but more research is needed to describe effects. All experimental studies were on larval and adult amphibians; there were no such studies on reptiles. Experimental work with reptiles and adult amphibians is needed to clarify thresholds of tolerance. Only nine mortality events were reported, mostly for reptiles. Given that amphibians likely decay faster than reptiles, which have tissues that resists decomposition, mass amphibian mortality events from HABs have likely been underreported. We propose seven major areas to focus future efforts to enhance our understanding of effects and monitoring of HABs on herpetofauna that fill important roles in freshwater and terrestrial environments.
Data Release Mercury concentrations in amphibian tissues across the United States, 2016-2021
Authors: Colleen S Emery; Collin A Eagles-Smith; Kelly L Smalling; Blake R Hossack; Brian J Tornabene; Michael J Adams; Adam R Backlin; Adrianne B Brand; Robert N Fisher; Jill Fleming; Brad M Glorioso; Daniel A Grear; Evan HC Grant; Brian J Halstead; Patrick M Kleeman; David AW Miller; Erin Muths; Christopher A Pearl; Jennifer C Rowe; Caitlin T Rumrill; Hardin J Waddle; Megan E Winzeler
Date: 2023-08-23
Comma-separated values (.csv) file containing data related to amphibian sampling across the United States between 2016 and 2021. Data files contain mercury concentrations in amphibian and dragonfly tissues, mercury concentrations in sediment, as well as amphibian morphometrics, and habitat and climate characteristics where the samples were collected.
Data Release Student Network for Amphibian Pathogen Surveillance Data: U.S. Geological Survey data release
Authors: Megan E Winzeler; Daniel A Grear
Date: 2023-05-16 | Outlet: USGS Science Base
Data in this dataset were collected as a part of the Student Network for Amphibian Pathogen Surveilance (SNAPs) program throughout the United States by undergraduate students in biology or ecology courses as a part of their curriculum throughout 2022. This data was collected in the field by students and sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) for testing of two amphibian fungal pathogens, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bs). The dataset includes both the field records of the individual amphibians tested and the results for individuals for Bd and Bsal
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