Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Biodiversity Conservation".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2023) | Viewed by 11406

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Zoology and Fisheries, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 129, Praha 6 - Suchdol, 165 21 Prague, Czech Republic
Interests: behavioral ecology of amphibians; invasive biology; pet trade monitoring; nature conservation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Diversity is launching a Special Issue dedicated to the Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians.

Amphibians are vertebrates with complex life cycles and limited dispersal abilities. These characteristics, in combination with their anatomy (permeable integument) make them more sensitive to environmental disturbances than other animals. Recently they have been rated as the most endangered group of vertebrates. Important individual factors that are involved (and can act synergically) include habitat loss and fragmentation, environmental pollution, disease spread, climate change, introduction of exotic species and exploitation (food, pet trade) by humans. This global decline even resulted in renewed interest in captive breeding as a conservation tool for amphibians. Global amphibian decline is the main reason to focus our attention to the development of knowledge about their ecology, which is key for proper conservation plans and actions. However, amphibians are also traditionally used as model organisms for studying wider ecological processes. They form significant biomass in ecosystems, and moreover, as ectotherms they are able to exploit energy-poor resources and thus serve as a link between the lowest and highest trophic levels within a community. Their strong site fidelity and spatially disjunct breeding habitats make them models for studying metapopulation dynamics. Amphibians are widely used as bioindicators. Extinctions and population declines are critical not only because amphibians are key components of many ecosystems, but also because the causative factors might also be affecting other organisms.

Dr. Oldřich Kopecký
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Anura
  • Caudata
  • amphibian decline
  • diversity

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

13 pages, 1933 KiB  
Article
Bioacoustic Monitoring Reveals the Calling Activity of an Endangered Mountaintop Frog (Philoria kundagungan) in Response to Environmental Conditions
by Liam Bolitho, David Newell and Harry Hines
Diversity 2023, 15(8), 931; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15080931 - 15 Aug 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1262
Abstract
Amphibians are the most endangered class of vertebrate on Earth. Knowledge of their ecology is crucial to their conservation; however, many species have received scant attention from researchers, particularly in regions that are difficult to access or when traditional monitoring methods are impractical. [...] Read more.
Amphibians are the most endangered class of vertebrate on Earth. Knowledge of their ecology is crucial to their conservation; however, many species have received scant attention from researchers, particularly in regions that are difficult to access or when traditional monitoring methods are impractical. In recent years, technological advancements in environmental audio collection techniques and signal detection algorithms (i.e., call recognition) have created a new set of tools for examining the ecology of amphibians. This study utilises these recent technological advancements to examine the calling phenology of a poorly known Australian mountain frog (Philoria kundagungan). Audio recordings and meteorological data were collected from six localities across the species range, with recordings made every hour for ten minutes between July 2016 and March 2018. We developed an audio recognition algorithm that detected over 1.8 million P. kundagungan calls in 8760 h of audio recordings with a true positive rate of 95%. Our results suggest that calling activity was driven by substrate temperature and precipitation, which has potential consequences for the species as the climate warms and seasonal precipitation patterns shift under climate change. With this detailed knowledge of P. kundagungan calling phenology, this difficult-to-find species will now be more reliably detected, removing a barrier that has hindered efforts to study and conserve this species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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15 pages, 1158 KiB  
Article
“Heaven” of Data Deficient Species: The Conservation Status of the Endemic Amphibian Fauna of Vietnam
by Priscilla Nesi, Luca Maria Luiselli and Leonardo Vignoli
Diversity 2023, 15(7), 872; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15070872 - 19 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1038
Abstract
Predicting the true status of Data Deficient (DD) species is a prominent theme in recent conservation biology, but there still is much debate regarding the conservation approach that should be used for DD taxa and no definitive conclusions are yet available. We review [...] Read more.
Predicting the true status of Data Deficient (DD) species is a prominent theme in recent conservation biology, but there still is much debate regarding the conservation approach that should be used for DD taxa and no definitive conclusions are yet available. We review and analyse the current data available on the conservation status of amphibians in Vietnam, with an emphasis on the DD species. We also compare Vietnamese DD frequency of occurrence with other regions of the world, examine the extent of the range of taxa divided by Red List status, and explore the protection attributes of the taxa based on their inclusion within protected areas of Vietnam. We documented that the analysis of amphibians in Southeast Asia, and especially in Vietnam, substantially agrees with patterns highlighted by previous global research, and confirms the risk that several DD species may silently go extinct without their actual risk ever being recognized. Importantly, our study showed that fine-scale analyses are essential to highlight the potential drivers of extinction risk for the DD species of amphibians. A crucial next step for conservation policies in Vietnam (and in surrounding countries) is developing and implementing species-specific studies targeted at addressing each species’ drivers of extinction and determining science-based strategies for minimizing their extinction risk. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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7 pages, 1446 KiB  
Communication
Suitability of Wheel Ruts: Characterization of Overlooked Breeding Habitats of Alpine Newts
by Oldřich Kopecký
Diversity 2023, 15(6), 762; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15060762 - 9 Jun 2023
Viewed by 793
Abstract
The Alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris) is sensitive to habitat destruction and alteration, and as a result there has been a decline in their populations across Europe. Due to historical landscape changes, the populations of Alpine newts drawn from lowlands and hilly [...] Read more.
The Alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris) is sensitive to habitat destruction and alteration, and as a result there has been a decline in their populations across Europe. Due to historical landscape changes, the populations of Alpine newts drawn from lowlands and hilly areas have recently been primarily found in artificial habitats, such as wheel ruts. In some areas inhabited by the Alpine newt range, wheel ruts are the only available habitat for newt breeding, and thus the only one allowing the maintenance of their populations. However, our knowledge about this type of habitat is limited. Therefore, 60 wheel ruts in a hilly forested area in the Czech Republic were checked for the presence of Alpine newt larvae. Their characteristics were measured (conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, depth, water coverage, plants, presence of prey, hydroperiod). The presence of larvae was positively associated with higher values of pH, coverage of water plants, and the presence of prey. The strongest predictor was the hydrological stability of wheel ruts, and newts were found to prefer non-drying ruts. From the conservation point of view, this means that the suitability of wheel ruts for Alpine newts can be estimated quite easily. This can essentially be performed on the basis of visual inspection if it is carried out through the breeding season of newts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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12 pages, 4919 KiB  
Article
High Evolutionary Potential Maintained in Common Frog (Rana temporaria) Populations Inhabiting Urban Drainage Ponds
by Robert Jehle, Jeanette Hall, Samantha A. Hook, Sarenta King, Kirsty MacArthur, Alexandre Miró, Marcia Rae and David O’Brien
Diversity 2023, 15(6), 738; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15060738 - 2 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1666
Abstract
Urbanisation leading to habitat change and fragmentation is a recognised global threat to biodiversity. However, it may also offer opportunities for some species. Genetic diversity, one of the three components of biodiversity, is often overlooked in conservation planning and policy. In the present [...] Read more.
Urbanisation leading to habitat change and fragmentation is a recognised global threat to biodiversity. However, it may also offer opportunities for some species. Genetic diversity, one of the three components of biodiversity, is often overlooked in conservation planning and policy. In the present study, we used a panel of seven microsatellite markers to compare the genetic structure of 34 common frog (Rana temporaria) populations residing in urban and suburban drainage ponds in Inverness (Scotland) with populations from rural surroundings. As a main finding, the levels of genetic variation were indiscernible between (sub)urban and rural populations. Significant isolation-by-distance was observed only for rural populations, with measures of pairwise genetic differentiation (Fst) that were, on average, lower than those in urban and suburban areas. The mean numbers of alleles remained stable between two temporal sets of samples collected at intervals broadly representing one R. temporaria generation, but with a tendency of decreasing allelic richness, irrespectively of the site characteristics. Taking these results together, our study revealed that the elevated levels of differentiation between R. temporaria populations inhabiting (sub)urban drainage ponds did not lead to increased levels of genetic erosion. Our findings support the importance of well-designed blue–green infrastructure in urban landscapes for the retention of within-species genetic diversity and can help to inform future biodiversity management policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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18 pages, 2363 KiB  
Article
Defining Evolutionary Conservation Units in the Macedonian Crested Newt, Triturus macedonicus (Amphibia; Salamandridae), in a Biodiversity Hotspot
by Taxiarchis Danelis, Anagnostis Theodoropoulos, Elisavet-Aspasia Toli, Anastasios Bounas, Athanasios Korakis and Konstantinos Sotiropoulos
Diversity 2023, 15(5), 671; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15050671 - 15 May 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2250
Abstract
In this study, we used genetic approaches to assess the conservation status of a protected amphibian species, the Macedonian crested newt, Triturus macedonicus, in Northern Pindos National Park (Epirus, Greece). Mitochondrial DNA sequences and multilocus genotypes of individuals from 38 breeding sites [...] Read more.
In this study, we used genetic approaches to assess the conservation status of a protected amphibian species, the Macedonian crested newt, Triturus macedonicus, in Northern Pindos National Park (Epirus, Greece). Mitochondrial DNA sequences and multilocus genotypes of individuals from 38 breeding sites were used to infer their phylogenetic position and to detect and measure genetic variation patterns, population genetic structure, and levels of gene flow. The examined individuals fell within two major clades of the Macedonian crested newt phylogeny, being geographically separated by the Aoos River valley and Vikos Gorge. Both groups constitute separate gene pools, bearing private haplotypes and alleles, and the groups were found to be highly differentiated in both their mitochondrial and microsatellite markers. Thus, they meet all of the criteria needed to be characterized as evolutionary significant units (ESUs) that deserve a separate conservation status. Within each ESU, the particularly high inter-population differentiation and low migration rates imply a lack of connectivity between breeding sites and local isolation in favorable habitats. Our results can inform future programs and actions towards the conservation and management of the Macedonian crested newt in the area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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12 pages, 1370 KiB  
Article
Causes for the High Mortality of European Green Toad Tadpoles in Road Stormwater Ponds: Pollution or Arrival of a New Predator?
by Antonin Conan, Astolfo Mata, Eloïse Lenormand, Alexandre Zahariev, Manfred Enstipp, Jonathan Jumeau and Yves Handrich
Diversity 2023, 15(4), 485; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15040485 - 25 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1619
Abstract
Declining wetland areas cause many amphibian species to breed inside stormwater ponds (SWPs), which have been constructed alongside major roads to collect and retain polluted road runoff water. However, the suitability of such artificial ponds as a breeding habitat for amphibians remains unclear. [...] Read more.
Declining wetland areas cause many amphibian species to breed inside stormwater ponds (SWPs), which have been constructed alongside major roads to collect and retain polluted road runoff water. However, the suitability of such artificial ponds as a breeding habitat for amphibians remains unclear. Recently, a study found a very low survival rate of European green toad tadpoles (Bufotes viridis) inside SWPs, presumably because of high sediment pollution and/or the presence of a leech Helobdella stagnalis. To establish the effects of sediment pollution and leech presence on tadpole growth and survival, we exposed 480 green toad tadpoles to a number of controlled conditions inside holding tanks. We tested the following conditions: (1) ‘control’ (clean sediment + clean water); (2) ‘leech’ (clean sediment + clean water + leeches); (3) ‘SWP sediment’ (clean water + polluted sediment); and (4) ‘SWP sediment + leech’ (clean water + polluted sediment + leeches). Tadpole size and survival was monitored until metamorphosis and, individuals participated in swim tests and respirometry trials to the test potential effects of pollution on their escape capacity and metabolic rate. We found that the growth rate of tadpoles exposed to the SWP sediment (condition 3) was increased, while pollution had no effect on survival. By contrast, leeches heavily preyed upon tadpoles, leaving no survivors in conditions 2 and 4. Tadpoles swim speed and metabolic rate of toadlets did not differ between the ‘control’ and ‘SWP sediment’ group, the only conditions with surviving individuals. Our study found that leeches had the strongest effect on tadpole survival and were likely responsible for the low survival rates in SWPs observed recently. Hence, we suggest that adequate management measures are needed to limit leech penetration inside SWPs (frequent dredging/draining) to prevent these artificial structures from becoming an ecological trap for locally endangered amphibians but rather a base to help in their recovery. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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11 pages, 2524 KiB  
Communication
Telemetry and Accelerometer Tracking of Green Toads in an Urban Habitat: Methodological Notes and Preliminary Findings
by Magdalena Spieẞberger, Stephan Burgstaller, Marion Mesnil, Michael S. Painter and Lukas Landler
Diversity 2023, 15(3), 328; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15030328 - 23 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1915
Abstract
Advancements in tracking technologies provide an increasingly important tool in animal monitoring and conservation that can describe animal spatial behavior in native habitats and uncover migratory routes that otherwise may be difficult or impossible to map. In addition, high-resolution accelerometer sensors provide powerful [...] Read more.
Advancements in tracking technologies provide an increasingly important tool in animal monitoring and conservation that can describe animal spatial behavior in native habitats and uncover migratory routes that otherwise may be difficult or impossible to map. In addition, high-resolution accelerometer sensors provide powerful insights into animal activity patterns and can help to identify specific behaviors from accelerometer profiles alone. Previously, such accelerometers were restricted to larger animals due to size and mass constraints. However, recent advances make it possible to use such devices on smaller animals such as the European green toad (Bufotes viridis), the focus of our current study. We deploy custom made tracking devices, that consist of very-high-frequency transmitters and tri-axial accelerometers, to track toads in their native urban environment in Vienna (Austria). A total of nine toads were tracked, ranging from three to nine tracking days per individual during the post-breeding season period. We demonstrate that our devices could reliably monitor toad movement and activity during the observation period. Hence, we confirmed the predominantly nocturnal activity patterns and recorded low overall movement at this urban site. Accelerometer data revealed that toads exhibited brief but intense activity bursts between 10 pm and midnight, resting periods during the night and intermittent activity during the day. Positional tracking alone would have missed the major activity events as they rarely resulted in large positional displacements. This underscores the importance of and value in integrating multiple tracking sensors for studies of movement ecology. Our approach could be adapted for other amphibians or other animals with mass constraints and may become standard monitoring equipment in the near future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians)
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