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

Rivera-Burgos, A. C., J. A. Collazo, A. J. Terando, and K. Pacifici. 2021. Linking demographic rates to local environmental conditions in support of Climate Adaptation Strategies for Eleutherodactylus frogs. Global Ecology and Conservation 28 (2021) e01624.


Conducting managed species translocations and establishing climate change refugia are adaptation strategies to cope with projected consequences of global warming, but successful implementation requires on-the-ground validation of demographic responses to transient climate conditions. Here we estimated the effect of nine abiotic and biotic factors on local occupancy and an index of abundance (few or chorus) for four amphibian species (Eleutherodactylus wightmanae, E. brittoni, E. antillensis, and E. coqui) in Puerto Rico, USA. We also assessed how the same factors influenced reproductive activity of E. coqui and how species responded to hurricane María (20 September 2017). As predicted, occupancy and abundance of E. wightmanae, E. brittoni and E. coqui were positively and strongly influenced by abiotic covariates (e.g., relative humidity) that characterize high elevation, mesic habitats. E. antillensis exhibited the opposite pattern, with highest probabilities (≥0.6) recorded at ≤300 m and with average relative humidity <75%. Biotic covariates (e.g., canopy cover) had a weak influence on both parameters, regardless of species. High probabilities (≥0.9) of detecting an E. coqui chorus and active nests occurred at sites experiencing average relative humidity of >80% and temperature of ≤26° C. Moderate to high probabilities of detecting a chorus (0.4 - 0.7) were recorded at sites with average temperatures >26°C, but no reproductive activity was detected, implying that monitoring abundance alone could misrepresent the capacity of a local population to sustain itself. The possibility underscores the importance of understanding the interplay between local demographic and environmental parameters in the advent of global warming to help guide monitoring and management decisions, especially for high elevation specialists. Hurricanes can inflict marked reductions in population numbers, but impacts vary by location and species. We found that the abundance (chorus) of E. antillensis and E. brittoni increased after the hurricane, but the abundance of the other two species did not differ between years. Lack of impacts was probably mediated by low structural damage to forest tracts (e.g., 9% canopy loss). Our findings help assess habitat suitability in terms of parameters that foster local population growth, which provides a basis for testing spatio-temporal predictions about demographic rates in potential climate refugia and for designing criteria to help guide managed translocations.