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Martin Westgate

Research Fellow
Fenner School of Environment & Society
Australian National University


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Citizen science program shows urban areas have lower occurrence of frog species, but not accelerated declines.

MJ Westgate, BC Scheele, K Ikin, AM Hoefer, RM Beaty, M Evans, W Osborne, L Rayner & DA Driscoll (2015) PLOS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0140973

Abstract

Understanding the influence of landscape change on animal populations is critical to inform biodiversity conservation efforts. A particularly important goal is to understand how urban density affects the persistence of animal populations through time, and how these impacts can be mediated by habitat provision; but data on this question are limited for some taxa. Here, we use data from a citizen science monitoring program to investigate the effect of urbanization on patterns of frog species richness and occurrence over 13 years. Sites surrounded by a high proportion of bare ground (a proxy for urbanization) had consistently lower frog occurrence, but we found no evidence that declines were restricted to urban areas. Instead, several frog species showed declines in rural wetlands with low-quality habitat. Our analysis shows that urban wetlands had low but stable species richness; but also that population trajectories are strongly influenced by vegetation provision in both the riparian zone and the wider landscape. Future increases in the extent of urban environments in our study area are likely to negatively impact populations of several frog species. However, existing urban areas are unlikely to lose further frog species in the medium term. We recommend that landscape planning and management focus on the conservation and restoration of rural wetlands to arrest current declines, and the revegetation of urban wetlands to facilitate the re-expansion of urban-sensitive species.

tags: landscape_ecology