Occupancy and abundance of Eleutherodactylus wightmanae and E. brittoni along elevational gradients in west-central Puerto Rico

Caribbean Naturalist
By: , and 

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Abstract

Populations of Eleutherodactylus species in Puerto Rico have declined in recent decades due to habitat loss and long-term climatic changes. The conservation of these habitat specialists requires an understanding of factors influencing their abundance and distribution, which at present is scant. We estimated occupancy probability and the probability of encountering ≥2 individuals of E. wightmanae (Melodius Coqui or Wightman's Robber Frog) and E. brittoni (Grass Coqui), species with contrasting habitat affinities, using multi-season, multi-state occupancy models. These parameters also served as an index of abundance (non-presence, 1, and ≥2 individuals). We modeled parameters as a function of seasonal temperature and humidity, long-term average monthly precipitation, and habitat covariates measured at survey sites along 2 elevation gradients in the southern slopes of west-central Puerto Rico. We collected survey data using passive acoustic recorders during 3 seasonal periods between February and July 2015. Occupancy patterns of both species was unimodal, containing higher probabilities (e.g., ≥0.5) at elevations between 400 m and 700 m, where long-term monthly precipitation varied between 120 mm and 160 mm. Chances of encountering ≥2 individuals increased with ground cover for E. brittoni, and decreased with increasing canopy cover for E. wightmanae. Seasonal temperature and relative humidity did not influence occupancy or the probability of encountering ≥2 individuals, likely because covariates varied within known tolerance levels for Eleutherodactylus. Our findings help reduce local extinction probability through management of habitat conditions that increase the likelihood of encountering ≥2 individuals. We also detailed an analytical framework suitable to test hypotheses aimed at predicting potential impacts from land use and climatic changes, and species responses to conservation actions.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Occupancy and abundance of Eleutherodactylus wightmanae and E. brittoni along elevational gradients in west-central Puerto Rico
Series title Caribbean Naturalist
Volume 40
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Eagle Hill Institute
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 18 p.
First page 1
Last page 18
Country United States
State Puerto Rico
Online Only (Y/N) Y