Amphibian declines and extinctions have been documented around the world, often in protected natural areas. Concern for this alarming trend has prompted the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service to document all species of amphibians that occur within U.S. National Parks and to search for any signs that amphibians may be declining. This study, an inventory of amphibian species in Everglades National Park, was conducted during 2000 to 2003. The goals of the project were to create a georeferenced inventory of amphibian species, use new analytical techniques to estimate proportion of sites occupied by each species, look for any signs of amphibian decline (missing species, disease, die-offs, etc.), and to establish a protocol that could be used for future monitoring efforts.
Several sampling methods were used to accomplish all of these goals. Visual encounter surveys and anuran vocalization surveys were conducted in all habitats throughout the park to estimate the proportion of sites or proportion of area occupied (PAO) by each amphibian species in each habitat. Opportunistic collections, as well as some drift fence and aquatic funnel trap data were used to augment the visual encounter methods for highly aquatic or cryptic species. A total of 562 visits to 118 sites were conducted for standard sampling alone, and 1788 individual amphibians and 413 reptiles were encountered. Data analysis was done in program PRESENCE to provide PAO estimates for each of the anuran species.
All but one of the amphibian species thought to occur in Everglades National Park was detected during this project. That species, the Everglades dwarf siren (Pseudobranchus axanthus belli), is especially cryptic and probably geographically limited in its range in Everglades National Park. The other three species of salamanders and all of the anurans in the park were sampled adequately using standard herpetological sampling methods. PAO estimates were produced for each species of anuran by habitat. This information is valuable now as an indicator of habitat associations of the species and relative abundance of sites occupied, but it will also be useful as a comparative baseline for future monitoring efforts.
In addition to sampling for amphibians, all encounters with reptiles were documented. The sampling methods used for detecting amphibians are also appropriate for many reptile species. These reptile locations are included in this report, but there were not enough locations for most reptile species to analyze the PAO of individual species. 37 of the 57 species of reptiles thought to occur in Everglades National Park were detected during this study.
This study found no evidence of amphibian decline in Everglades National Park. There was one species not detected, but there is no evidence to indicate it has been extirpated from the park. Although no declines were observed, several threats to amphibians were identified. Introduced species, especially the Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis), are predators and competitors with several native frog species. Also, interference by humans with the natural hydrological cycle of the Everglades has the potential to alter the amphibian community. Finally, habitat loss outside the park has the potential to leave the amphibians in Everglades National Park isolated from other populations.
Continued monitoring of the amphibian species in Everglades National Park is recommended. The methods used in this study are adequate to produce reliable estimates of the proportion of sites occupied by most anuran species. Continuing this protocol is a cost-effective way of determining whether species are decreasing or increasing in abundance of sites occupied.