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Defining relevant conservation targets for the endangered Southern California distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa)

March 2, 2022

The endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) has been reduced to <10 isolated populations in the wild. Due to frequent catastrophic events (floods, droughts, wildfires), the recent dynamics of these populations have been erratic, making the future of the species highly uncertain. In 2018, a recovery plan was developed to improve the species status by reducing the impacts of various threats (predation, disease, habitat destruction), as well as reinforcing wild populations through the reintroduction of captive-bred frogs. The short-term goal stated in this plan was to reach a minimum of 20 populations of 50 adults each (hereafter, the 20/50 target), before the species can be considered for downlisting from the U.S. Endangered Species Act. However, there is no guarantee that this 20/50 target will be sufficient to ensure the species persistence in the long run. Using 19 years of mark-recapture data, we estimated populations' demographic trends and assessed the viability of R. muscosa from a starting state of 20 populations of 50 adults each (i.e., the downlisting criteria). Our results reveal that, from this 20/50 state, the species has high chances of persistence only at a short time horizon (50 years). Moreover, >80% of populations would be extinct 50 years later. Therefore, the species will not be able to persist without implementation of the reintroduction program. We found that it is more important to increase the number of suitable sites occupied by R. muscosa than to simply reinforce or augment existing populations. Expanding the current distribution by establishing new populations at suitable sites, even after the “20 populations” mark has been reached, would increase the likelihood of the species' persistence in the longer term.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Defining relevant conservation targets for the endangered Southern California distinct population segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa)
DOI 10.1111/csp2.12666
Authors Thierry Chambert, Adam R. Backlin, Elizabeth Gallegos, Bradd Baskerville-Bridges, R. N. Fisher
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Science and Practice
Series Number
Index ID 70230132
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center

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