More than 25 years ago, scientists began to identify unexplained declines in amphibian populations around the world. Much has been learned since then, but amphibian declines have not abated and the interactions among the various threats to amphibians are not clear. Amphibian decline is a problem of local, national, and international scope that can affect ecosystem function, biodiversity, and commerce. This fact sheet provides a snapshot of the state of the amphibians and introduces examples to illustrate the range of issues in the United States.
Blackrock: biological hotspot and hotbed of collaboration [Science Feature]
FORT scientist Erin Muths has been leading a team of researchers investigating amphibian decline at a study site on the Blackrock Ranger Station compound on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in northwestern Wyoming. The work began in 2003, when Dr. Muths and David Pilliod (USGS Forest and Range Ecosystem Science Center) were awarded competitive funding from the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI). The research team of Dr. Muths, Dr. Pilliod, and Steve Corn and Blake Hossack (USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center) collaborates with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other entities to study population demographics and disease ecology for the four species of amphibians that reside on the USFS Blackrock compound. This science feature describes the multi-agency collaboration, the research, and some of the findings, including the unexpected value of a mitigation site when the study site wetland flooded.
Long-Term Observations of Boreal Toads at an ARMI Apex Site
Corn, P.S., E. Muths, and D.S. Pilliod
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Questioning Greater Yellowstone’s Future: Climate, Land Use, and Invasive Species. Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. October 11–13, 2010, Yellowstone National Park, WY, and Laramie, WY
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) is a national project with goals to monitor the status and trends of amphibians, conduct research on causes of declines, and provide information and support to management agencies for conservation of amphibian populations. ARMI activities are organized around extensive inventories and place-based monitoring (such as collaboration with the Greater Yellowstone Inventory and Monitoring Network), and intensive population studies and research at selected locations (apex sites). One such site is an oxbow pond on the Buffalo Fork near the Black Rock Ranger Station east of Grand Teton National Park. We have been conducting mark-recapture of boreal toads (Anaxyrus boreas) at Black Rock since 2002. In concert with studies of other toad populations in the Rocky Mountains, we have documented a high rate of incidence of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and a negative rate of growth of the toad population, but not the population crash or extinction observed in other populations with high prevalence of Bd...
Effects of amphibian chytrid fungus on individual survival probability in wild boreal toads
Pilliod, D.S., E. Muths, R.D. Scherer, P.E. Bartelt, P.S. Corn, B.R. Hossack, B.A. Lambert, R. McCaffery, and C. Gaughan
Chytridiomycosis is linked to the worldwide decline of amphibians, yet little is known about the demographic effects of the disease. We collected capture–recapture data on three populations of boreal toads (Bufo boreas [Bufo = Anaxyrus]) in the Rocky Mountains (U.S.A.). Two of the populations were infected with chytridiomycosis and one was not. We examined the effect of the presence of amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis [Bd]; the agent of chytridiomycosis) on survival probability and population growth rate. Toads that were infected with Bd had lower average annual survival probability than uninfected individuals at sites where Bd was detected, which suggests chytridiomycosis may reduce survival by 31–42% in wild boreal toads. Toads that were negative for Bd at infected sites had survival probabilities comparable to toads at the uninfected site. Evidence that environmental covariates (particularly cold temperatures during the breeding season) influenced toad survival was weak...
Compensatory effects of recruitment and survival when amphibian populations are perturbed by disease
The need to increase our understanding of factors that regulate animal population dynamics has been catalysed by recent, observed declines in wildlife populations worldwide. Reliable estimates of demographic parameters are critical for addressing basic and applied ecological questions and understanding the response of parameters to perturbations (e.g. disease, habitat loss, climate change). However, to fully assess the impact of perturbation on population dynamics, all parameters contributing to the response of the target population must be estimated...
Survival with disease: Toad populations in the Rocky Mountains
Muths, E., D.S. Pilliod, and R.D. Scherer
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Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Understanding the distribution of chytridiomycosis, both at global and local scales, is important to controlling its impacts on host species (e.g., biocontrol or eradication) and to managing host amphibian populations (e.g., reintroduction and habitat management). In response to this, efforts to map observations of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) are underway to better understand its distribution and impact on amphibian populations (e.g., www.spatialepidemiology.net/Bd)...
Distribution limits of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis a case study in the Rocky Mountains, USA
Hossack, B.R., E. Muths, C.W. Anderson, J.D. Kirshtein, and P.S. Corn
Amphibian populations continue to be imperiled by the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Understanding where B. dendrobatidis (Bd) occurs and how it may be limited by environmental factors is critical to our ability to effectively conserve the amphibians affected by Bd. We sampled 1247 amphibians (boreal toads and surrogates) at 261 boreal toad (Bufo boreas) breeding sites (97 clusters) along an 11 [degrees] latitudinal gradient in the Rocky Mountains to determine the distribution of B. dendrobatidis and examine environmental factors, such as temperature and elevation, that might affect its distribution... (www.elsevier.com/locate/biocon)