Climate Change Implications for the Conservation of Amphibians in Tropical Environments

Science Center Objects

Climate and land use change will strongly affect tropical island ecosystems and trust species (like migratory birds and threatened and endangered species). The risks of significant negative impacts are likely to be higher in these island systems than in many temperate regions of the world because of the limited size of their land masses, high numbers of species that only exist in narrowly defin...

Climate and land use change will strongly affect tropical island ecosystems and trust species (like migratory birds and threatened and endangered species). The risks of significant negative impacts are likely to be higher in these island systems than in many temperate regions of the world because of the limited size of their land masses, high numbers of species that only exist in narrowly defined regions, and expectations that tropical environments will experience greater changes in temperature. Tropical island communities are faced with making important decisions related to adaptation that could impact the health of important natural resources and ecosystems. However, a lack of scientific guidance and information complicates these efforts.

To help address this problem, the SE CSC project team will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER), University of Puerto Rico, and North Carolina State University (NCSU) on improving the application of downscaled climate projections to help advance the recovery and conservation of amphibians in Puerto Rico. The USFWS and PRDNER seek to implement an adaptive conservation strategy to achieve recovery of three endangered frog species (of the genus Eleutherodactylus) and prevent federal listing of 14 other amphibians considered at risk. Implementation of the strategy requires identifying suitable habitat for the species at present and in the future, and ensuring the availability of field-tested protocols for locally supplementing, introducing, and translocating species as necessary.

The main objectives of this project are: (1) to develop an understanding of the eco-physiological limits of these species and the influence of those limits on extinction rates in local patches (i.e., heterogeneous micro-habitats within an ecosystem), and (2) to assess their adaptive capacity (i.e. the ability of the amphibians to adapt to changing environmental conditions). This will inform implementation of the conservation strategy, which is partly constrained by the availability of conservation areas that meet required eco-physiological conditions. This research will contribute to a decision framework developed by NCSU scientists that can assist decision makers in determining when and where to implement conservation actions to maximize species persistence.  The framework incorporates ecological and socio-economic factors, multiple and possibly competing management objectives, and key uncertainties (related to climate and land use dynamics) in determining potential conservation strategies.

This project will incorporate results from an earlier SE CSC project, Modeling Future Temperature and Precipitation for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Caribbean, that laid the foundation for more reliable climate change information for this region by producing dynamically downscaled climate projections.