Large-scale recovery of an endangered amphibian despite ongoing exposure to multiple stressors

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
By: , and 

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Abstract

Amphibians are one of the most threatened animal groups, with 32% of species at risk for extinction. Given this imperiled status, is the disappearance of a large fraction of the Earth’s amphibians inevitable, or are some declining species more resilient than is generally assumed? We address this question in a species that is emblematic of many declining amphibians, the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae). Based on >7,000 frog surveys conducted across Yosemite National Park over a 20-y period, we show that, after decades of decline and despite ongoing exposure to multiple stressors, including introduced fish, the recently emerged disease chytridiomycosis, and pesticides, R. sierrae abundance increased sevenfold during the study and at a rate of 11% per year. These increases occurred in hundreds of populations throughout Yosemite, providing a rare example of amphibian recovery at an ecologically relevant spatial scale. Results from a laboratory experiment indicate that these increases may be in part because of reduced frog susceptibility to chytridiomycosis. The disappearance of nonnative fish from numerous water bodies after cessation of stocking also contributed to the recovery. The large-scale increases in R. sierrae abundance that we document suggest that, when habitats are relatively intact and stressors are reduced in their importance by active management or species’ adaptive responses, declines of some amphibians may be partially reversible, at least at a regional scale. Other studies conducted over similarly large temporal and spatial scales are critically needed to provide insight and generality about the reversibility of amphibian declines at a global scale.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Large-scale recovery of an endangered amphibian despite ongoing exposure to multiple stressors
Series title Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1600983113
Volume 113
Issue 42
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 6 p.
First page 11889
Last page 11894