Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

North Carolina Project

Strategic habitat conservation and adaptive strategies for recovery and pre-listing conservation of Eleutherodactylus (coqui) amphibians in Puerto Rico.

August 2019 - September 2022


Participating Agencies

  • SE Climate and Adaptation Science Center
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources want to develop a plan of actions to help the recovery of two endangered species in the genus Eleutherodactylus (commonly known as “coqui”), while also reducing the risk that 14 other coqui species are added to the Endangered Species list. Our multi-disciplinary research team responded by developing foundational environmental and ecological knowledge required to build a robust strategy. To date, we have identified factors influencing where species occur, their abundance, and key drivers of reproduction influenced by two major sources of environmental change—climate and land use change—for three representative species (E. wightmanae, E. britonni, and E. antillensis). For this next research stage we propose to: 1) characterize the ability of the three representative species plus the endangered E. juanriveroi, to cope with environmental stresses (i.e. their adaptive capacity) using a combination of laboratory and field experiments, 2) map the genetic structure of these species to learn about connections between different populations and identify centers of genetic diversity, and 3) assist agencies in the development of conservation strategies centered on two potential adaptation actions: species relocations to new habitats (i.e. translocations) and making connections to climate-resilient habitats. By investigating the most effective ways to carry out translocations, we will help decision makers answer WHEN it is best to begin consideration of translocations versus continuing to manage at existing locations. And by investigating which habitats have the potential to be resilient in a changing climate, we will help decision makers answer WHERE the best ‘areas of conservation interest’ would be for translocated individuals. Ultimately, our methods will be applicable to other environmental change settings in the context of developing recovery plans and for helping to prevent the listing of species.