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

Collazo, J.A., A. J. Terando, M. J. Eaton, E. Martinez, R.C. Bell, A. Puente-Rolon. 2023. Strategic Habitat Conservation and Adaptive Strategies for Recovery and Pre-listing Conservation of Eleutherodactylus (coqui) Amphibians in Puerto Rico. Cooperator Report (ScienceBase).


We synthesized ecological data to inform decision makers on when climate-vulnerable amphibians should be translocated and where climate-resilient habitat should be protected. In objective 1, we showed critical thermal limits (CTMax)estimates conformed to the known distribution of focal species. Climate projections suggested that focal species will not be exposed to reported CTMax until at least 2060. Instead, species will be affected through long-exposure to elevated sub-lethal temperatures (≥25°C ≤36°C). Experimental releases indicated that there is no difference in initial, post-release daily survival rates between control and translocated individuals (DSR = 0.999 ± 0.001), and are not an added source of mortality, thus, it is a useful adaptation tool. In objective 2, genetic analyses for the endangered Eleutherodactylus juanariveroi suggested that the two known populations harbor unique genetic diversity, and were likely exchanging migrants in the past, but have more recently become isolated from one another. Other range-restricted Eleutherodactylus species exhibited extensive genetic structure in a principal components analysis of genetic variation, suggesting that they may require a finer scale of population management in recognition of genetic variability and to ensure resilience to future global change. In objective 3, we evaluated current habitat conditions and forecasted habitat change under future climates using E. juanariveroi as an illustrative example to demonstrate a framework for developing conservation strategies for climate sensitive-species. Temperature-mediated evapotranspiration, declining freshwater input, and sea level rise will promote saltwater intrusion and the transition of fresh marsh habitats in Puerto Rico. Conditional on scenarios of future biotic and abiotic conditions, uncertainty, and decision-maker risk attitudes, we developed a spatial reserve-design planning tool to optimize species persistence and manage risk. The multi-disciplinary project we described represents a sound approach to draw appropriate inferences about organismal and habitat vulnerability to non-stationary climate conditions, help identify alternative actions to deal with potential impacts, and assist decision makers in the formulation of long-term strategies for species conservation by considering climate-induced uncertainty and risk.