Protected areas like national parks are essential elements of conservation because they limit human influence on the landscape, which protects biodiversity and ecosystem function. The role of national parks in conservation, however, often goes far beyond limiting human influence. The U.S. National Park Service and its system of land units contribute substantively to conservation by providing protected lands where researchers can document trends in species distributions and abundances, examine characteristics important for generating these trends, and identify and implement conservation strategies to preserve biodiversity. We reviewed the contribution of U.S. national parks to amphibian research and conservation and highlight important challenges and findings in several key areas. First, U.S. national parks were instrumental in providing strong support that amphibian declines were real and unlikely to be simply a consequence of habitat loss. Second, research in U.S. national parks provided evidence against certain hypothesized causes of decline, like UV-B radiation, and evidence for others, such as introduced species and disease. However, describing declines and identifying causes contributes to conservation only if it leads to management; importantly, U.S. national parks have implemented many conservation strategies and evaluated their effectiveness in recovering robust amphibian populations. Among these, removal of invasive species, especially fishes; conservation translocations; and habitat creation and enhancement stand out as examples of successful conservation strategies with broad applicability. Successful management for amphibians is additionally complicated by competing mandates and stakeholder interests; for example, past emphasis on increasing visitor enjoyment by introducing fish to formerly fishless lakes had devastating consequences for many amphibians. Other potential conflicts with amphibian conservation include increasing development, increased risk of introductions of disease and exotic species with increased visitation, and road mortality. Decision science and leveraging partnerships have proven to be key components of effective conservation under conflicting mandates in national parks. As resource managers grapple with large-scale drivers that are outside local control, public-private partnerships and adaptive strategies are increasing in importance. U.S. national parks have played an important role in many aspects of identifying and ameliorating the amphibian decline crisis and will continue to be essential for the conservation of amphibians in the future.
|Title||Looking ahead, guided by the past: The role of U.S. national parks in amphibian research and conservation|
|Authors||Brian J. Halstead, Andrew M. Ray, Erin L. Muths, Evan H. Campbell Grant, Rob Grasso, Michael J. Adams, Kathleen Semple Delaney, Jane Carlson, Blake R. Hossack|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Ecological Indicators|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Western Ecological Research Center|