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John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis

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Quantitative evidence for the effects of multiple drivers on continental-scale amphibian declines

Working Group: Elucidating mechanisms underlying amphibian declines in North America using hierarchical spatial models

Evan H Grant (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
David A.W. Miller (Penn State)
Benedikt R. Schmidt (University of Zurich)
Michael J Adams (USGS Corvallis Research Group, FRESC)
Staci Amburgey (Fort Collins Science Center)
Thierry A Chambert (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Sam Cruickshank
Robert N Fisher (San Diego Field Station, WERC)
David M. Green (U.S. Geological Survey)
Blake R Hossack (Missoula Field Station, NRMSC)
Pieter Johnson (University of Colorado Boulder)
Maxwell B. Joseph
Tracey Rittenhouse (University of Connecticut)
Maureen Ryan (University of Washington)
Hardin Waddle (National Wetlands Research Center)
Susan Walls (Southeast Ecological Science Center)
Larissa Bailey (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Gary M Fellers (Point Reyes Field Station, WERC)
Thomas Gorman
Andrew M Ray (Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center)
David Pilliod (Snake River Field Station, FRESC)
Steven Price
Daniel Saenz
Walter J Sadinski (Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center)
Erin L Muths (Fort Collins Science Center)

Publication Date: 2016


Since amphibian declines were first proposed as a global phenomenon over a quarter century ago, the conservation community has made little progress in halting or reversing these trends. The early search for a “smoking gun” was replaced with the expectation that declines are caused by multiple drivers. While field observations and experiments have identified factors leading to increased local extinction risk, evidence for effects of these drivers is lacking at large spatial scales. Here, we use observations of 389 time-series of 83 species and complexes from 61 study areas across North America to test the effects of 4 of the major hypothesized drivers of declines. While we find that local amphibian populations are being lost from metapopulations at an average rate of 3.79% per year, these declines are not related to any particular threat at the continental scale; likewise the effect of each stressor is variable at regional scales. This result - that exposure to threats varies spatially, and populations vary in their response - provides little generality in the development of conservation strategies. Greater emphasis on local solutions to this globally shared phenomenon is needed.


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