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Projecting the remaining habitat for the western spadefoot (Spea hammondii) in heavily urbanized southern California

November 29, 2021

Extensive urbanization in coastal southern California has reduced natural habitat in this biodiversity hotspot. To better conserve ecological communities, state and federal agencies, along with local jurisdictions and private stakeholders, developed regional conservation plans for southern California. Although many protected areas exist within this region, the patchwork nature of these protected areas might not provide good coverage for species that require multiple habitat components, such as amphibians with complex life histories. Because of declines in the past century, the status of the western spadefoot (Spea hammondii) in southern California is of concern to state and federal wildlife agencies. Species distribution models (SDMs) can aid in determining the conservation status of imperiled species by projecting where suitable habitat remains and how much is protected from further development. We built SDMs that integrated site-occupancy data from systematic pitfall trapping surveys and presence-only data from biodiversity databases and citizen science platforms to project the current distribution of western spadefoots in southern California. Western spadefoot occurrence was positively related to the cover of grassland or shrub/scrub and the % sand in the soil within a 1000 m buffer, and was negatively related to slope, elevation, and distance to ephemeral streams or vernal pools. Most of the remaining unprotected habitat for western spadefoots is in the southern half of its historical range in western San Diego and Riverside counties. A few large tracts of spadefoot habitat exist on U.S. Department of Defense lands and smaller tracts remain on ecological reserves owned by state and local government agencies. Only small patches of habitat remain in the northern half of this clade’s historical range in Ventura, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties. Existing regional conservation plans provide ostensible spatial coverage of the majority of extant habitat for western spadefoots in southern California, but most of the habitat within the jurisdiction of these plans lacks formal protection, exposing this species to further declines as urbanization continues in the 21st century.

Publication Year 2022
Title Projecting the remaining habitat for the western spadefoot (Spea hammondii) in heavily urbanized southern California
DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01944
Authors Jonathan P. Rose, Brian J. Halstead, Robert H. Packard, Robert N. Fisher
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Ecology and Conservation
Index ID 70241495
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center