Modeling Management Actions Helps Researchers Pinpoint the Main Culprit of Wood Frog Declines

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Amphibian decline is a global conservation crisis driven by multiple interacting stressors, which often act at a local scale with global implications.

Wood frogs are a declining species in the northeastern United States, thought to be affected by interactions among climate change, disease, and environmental contaminant exposure. These interactions among stressors can complicate the search for the main culprit of declines and obfuscate the relative importance of each stressor, making it difficult to select appropriate management and conservation actions. USGS and USFWS researchers used a Bayesian Belief Network to evaluate how potential management actions to conserve wood frogs might mitigate the effects of the three stressors as characterized through drought, ranavirus exposure, and methylmercury exposure. Models suggested that successful wood frog recruitment was largely driven by sufficient water availability in breeding ponds. Pond hydrology was estimated to be more important for successful recruitment than either methylmercury or ranavirus exposure. Authors emphasize that using a Bayesian Belief Network can help identify research priorities in support of management activities to meet conservation goals.

Smalling, K., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Katz, R.A., Campbell Grant, E.H., 2019, Managing the trifecta of disease, climate, and contaminants- Searching for robust choices under multiple sources of uncertainty: Biological Conservation, v. 263, p. 153-161,

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Date published: November 16, 2017
Status: Active

Contaminant Ecology Research Team (FRESC)

The FRESC Contaminant Ecology research program evaluates the distribution, movement, and ecological effects of environmental contaminants across the landscape and strives to provide relevant science in support of natural resource conservation, management, and decision making.