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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. Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, Pesticides, and other Bioactive Contaminants in Water, Sediment, and Tissue from Rocky Mountain National Park, 2012-2013
Authors: Battaglin W, Bradley P, Iwanowicz L, Journey C, Blazer V | Date: 2018-06-05 | Outlet: Science of the Total Environment 643:651-673 | Format: .PDF
Pharmaceuticals, hormones, pesticides, and other bioactive contaminants (BCs) are commonly detected in surface water and bed sediment in urban and suburban areas, but these contaminants are understudied in remote locations. In Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado, USA, BCs may threaten the reproductive success and survival of native aquatic species, benthic communities, and pelagic food webs. In 2012-2013, 67 water, 57 sediment, 63 fish, 10 frog, and 12 quality-control samples (8 water and 4 sediment) were collected from 20 sites in RMNP. Samples were analyzed for 369 parameters including 149 pharmaceuticals, 22 hormones, 137 pesticides, and 61 other chemicals or conditions to provide a representative assessment of BC occurrence within RMNP. Results indicate that BCs were detected in water and/or sediment from both remote and more accessible locations in RMNP. The most commonly detected BCs in water were caffeine, camphor, para-cresol, and DEET; and the most commonly detected BCs in sediment were indole, 3-methyl-1H-indole, para-cresol, and 2,6-dimethyl-naphthalene. Some detected contaminants, including carbaryl, caffeine, and oxycodone, are clearly attributable to direct local human input, whereas others may be transported into the park atmospherically (e.g., atrazine) or have local natural sources (e.g., para-cresol). One or more pharmaceuticals were detected in at least 1 sample from 15 of 20 sites. Most of the 29 detected pharmaceuticals are excreted primarily in human urine, not feces. Elevated net estrogenicity was observed in 18% of water samples, and elevated vitellogenin in blood was observed in 12% of male trout, both evidence of potential endocrine disruption. Hormone concentrations in sediment tended to be greater than concentrations in water. Most BCs were observed at concentrations below those not expected to pose adverse effects to aquatic life. Results indicate that even in remote locations aquatic wildlife can be exposed to pharmaceuticals, hormones, pesticides, and other bioactive contaminants.

This is an ARMI Product. Introduced parasites of freshwater fish in southern California, U.S.A.
Authors: Kuperman BI, Matey VE, Warburton ML, Fisher RN | Date: 2002 | Outlet: pp. 407-411 in: Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of Parasitology - ICOPA X. Monduzzi Editore S.p.A. - MEDIMOND Inc., Bologna, Italy. 660 pp. | Format: .PDF

Cheryl Brehme, USGS  
This is an ARMI Product. Longevity and population age structure of the arroyo southwestern toad (Anaxyrus californicus) with drought implications
Authors: Fisher RN, Brehme CS, Hathaway SA, Hovey TE, Warburton ML, Stokes DC | Date: 2018-05-20 | Outlet: Ecology and Evolution | Format: .PDF
The arroyo southwestern toad is a specialized and federally endangered amphibian endemic to the coastal plains and mountains of central and southern California and northwestern Baja California. It is largely unknown how long these toads live in natural systems, how their population demographics vary across occupied drainages, and how hydrology affects age structure. We used skeletochronology to estimate the ages of adult arroyo toads in seven occupied drainages with varying surface water hydrology in southern California. We processed 179 adult toads with age estimates between one and six years. Comparisons between skeletochronological ages and known ages of PIT tagged toads showed that skeletochronology likely underestimated toad age by up to two years, indicating they may live to seven or eight years, but nonetheless major patterns were evident. Arroyo toads showed sexual size dimorphism with adult females reaching a maximum size of 12mm greater than males. Population age structure also varied among the sites. Age structure at sites with seasonally predictable surface water was biased toward younger individuals, which indicated stable recruitment for these populations. In contrast, age structures at the ephemeral sites were biased toward older individuals with cohorts roughly corresponding to higher rainfall years. These populations are driven by surface water availability, a stochastic process, and are thus more unstable. Based on our estimates of toad ages, climate predictions of extreme and prolonged drought events could mean that the number of consecutive dry years could surpass the maximum life span of toads making them vulnerable to extirpation, especially in ephemeral freshwater systems. Understanding the relationship between population demographics and hydrology is essential for predicting species resilience to projected changes in weather and rainfall patterns. The arroyo toad serves as a model for understanding potential species responses to long term climatic and hydrologic changes in Mediterranean stream systems. We recommend development of adaptive management strategies to address these threats.

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