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The number of endangered amphibians in Peru may be underestimated

The number of endangered amphibians in Peru may be underestimated

The number of endangered amphibians in Peru may be underestimated
December 1, 2008

The number of threatened amphibian species in Peru may be significantly underestimated, increasing the risk that conservation decisions will fail to account for their needs, report researchers writing in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science.

Peru is home to roughly 500 known species of frogs, toads, and caecilians — one of the highest levels of amphibian biodiversity in the word. However beyond a species count, this bounty is poorly known.

Compiling data on the conservation status of 83 types of amphibian found in Peru, Rudolf von May and colleagues found that only 8 percent of the country's species are recognized as threatened by the government (using a generous definition of "threatened"), compared with a global rate of 32 percent, and higher rates in neighboring Ecuador (36 percent) and Colombia (30 percent). The authors estimate the conservation status of 47 percent of the sampled species need to be re-assessed, indicating that the number of at-risk species is likely higher than currently recognized.

The authors say that continued research, coupled with standardization of criteria used by the Peruvian government to establish conservation status, will help better protect amphibians — facing a rising onslaught of threats including the spread of a deadly fungal disease — from extinction.

"Habitat conservation is crucial to protect amphibian species facing human-induced threats," they write. "As we have shown, the habitat of almost half of threatened amphibian species reported herein still remains unprotected and it is likely that at least some of it will be altered in the near future. Climate change, emerging pathogens, air-borne pollution, and invasion of exotic species (e.g., Lithobates catesbeianus “bullfrogs”) can affect amphibian species inside protected or pristine ecosystems. However, other equally important threats such as habitat destruction, water pollution, and illegal collecting can be alleviated by establishing new protected areas."

The authors note that while national protected zones are a well-established means for preserving species, locally protected areas can be effective for conserving endemic species in specific habitats — especially in the face of limited conservation resources.

"Locally protected areas require fewer resources than nationally protected areas and could be monitored by local people, promoting the involvement of human communities in amphibian and ecosystem conservation and facilitating population management programs where needed," the authors write. "Educational programs and capacity building should be implemented along with the creation of new protected areas, to generate public awareness of conservation issues affecting those areas."

von May, R., Catenazzi, A., Angulo, A., Brown, J.L., Carrillo, J., Chávez, G., Córdova, J.H., Curo, A., Delgado, A., Enciso, M.A., Gutiérrez, R., Lehr, E., Martínez, J.L., Medina-Müller, M., Miranda, A., Neira, D.R., Ochoa, J.A., Quiroz, A.J., Rodríguez, D.A., Rodríguez, L.O., Salas, A.W., Seimon, T., Seimon, A., Siu-Ting, K., Suárez, J., Torres, C. and Twomey, E. 2008. Current state of conservation knowledge on threatened amphibian species in Peru. Tropical Conservation Science Vol.1 (4):376-396.

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