Nearly 35% of all amphibians are now threatened of extinction raising them to the position of the most endangered group of animals in the world. Decline of amphibian populations and species is ongoing due to habitat loss, fungal disease, climate shift and agrochemical contaminants. These impacts are even worse to frogs that reproduce in water bodies such as streams and ponds.
Despite of that, no study ever proposed key broad-scale regions for conserving these species till now. Rafael D. Loyola and his colleagues propose now a priority set of areas for the conservation of frogs and toads in Latin America. The study, published in this week’s PLoS ONE, is unprecedented in terms of not only the proposition of key-conservation areas, but also because it shows that the inclusion of species biological traits, such as reproductive modes, affects the performance of area-prioritization analyses.
Loyola and coauthors separated 700 frog and toad species into two major groups: those that exhibit an aquatic larval stage (tadpoles) during its life-cycle and those that do not. They find regions of particular importance for each of these groups and combined the results to attain a set of priority areas for the conservation of species. These regions are concentrated in the Andes and Central America, with some important areas also appearing in Mexico and Brazil.
The researchers suggest that if frog and toad developmental modes are not considered most regions essential for preserving species with tadpoles will be lost, leading to inefficient conservation strategies for these animals and to the lost of the Latin America’s unique natural heritage.
Citation: Loyola RD, Becker CG, Kubota U, Haddad CFB, Fonseca CR, et al. (2008) Hung Out to Dry: Choice of Priority Ecoregions for Conserving Threatened Neotropical Anurans Depends on Life-History Traits. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2120. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002120