Blog

Saving the amphibians of the Himalayas

Text by Vishal Kumar Prasad

Vishal Kumar Prasad giving a talk

We are happy to share some updates from the people in our lab working in the Himalayas, India. This week we organised an amphibian conservation talk in Mukteshwar hill town to encourage local youths and public to protect the amphibians of Himalayas. Due to COVID-19 restriction, many people couldn’t join the talk but we are glad that some passionate young nature guides of the ‘Nature in Mukteshwar’ group made it to the event. Participants were very much interested and happy to learn about frogs of their region. We believe it takes positive intent and some efforts to educate people in the right direction and with consistency locals can pick up and get well on knowledge of their own local biodiversity. Without participation of local communities, no conservation program is successful. A big thanks to Ram and Ghazala for arranging everything! This program was organised under a grant received from Rufford Foundation, United Kingdom. We hope our work in the Himalayas will ignite many young minds to start thinking to save amphibians of the Himalayas!

Participants of the workshop
Vishal Kumar Prasad giving a talk
The team supporting Vishal Kumar Prasad’s project
Landscape of Mukteshwar

全球两栖动物保护重点的综合研究

研究组与华盛顿州立大学Sky Button博士合作在权威期刊《Global Change Biology》上发表题为:全球两栖动物保护优先保护的整合研究(PDF *)。

人类活动正在将众多物种推至灭绝边缘,而当前保护区设置仅能微弱缓解受胁物种的生存压力,这中差异反映出现有的全球保护区体系的设置并没有很好的整合不同物种的生态、进化或其保护价值。因此,正如两栖动物生物多样性丧失地理格局所体现,栖息地的丧失将持续影响受胁物种。

为更好的指导保护区的设置以便其与生物多样性丧失高风险区相切合,我们评估了诸多因素在确定全球和生物群落层面上对优先保护区域识别(特别是两栖动物)的重要性。通过整合分析,我们对全球两栖动物物保护关键区域进行了识别、绘制和排序,并对每个物种的保护紧迫性进行了评分。这一方法基于物种特征和生态区域层面上人类活动的影响,并考虑了数据缺乏的物种可能面临的威胁以及系统发育独特的物种不可替代性。同时我们阐述了特有种的保护策略并预测未来人类活动对生态区域的可能影响。因此,该方法具有较高的创新性。

作为对比,我们使用了物种丰富度和演化独特且濒危的物种评分指标(Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered ,EDGE)绘制了两栖动物生物多样性图谱并对其进行了排序。结果显示,我们的方法预测了两栖动物保护的关键区域,而单纯基于物种丰富度或EDGE评分指标时并不明显。

Relative conservation priority scores for amphibians using species richness (a), EDGE score proxy
(b), and the integrative approach (c). We calculated priority scores for each approach by summing the scores (or number) of species overlapping each grid cell. The spatial distribution of high-scoring pixels differed considerably among the three approaches, with the integrative and EDGE score proxy approaches suggesting higher conservation priorities in the Paleotropics than the species richness approach

此外,通过衡量动物类群的优先保护等级,我们确定了温带及干旱区几个对于保护两栖动物至关重要而现在却被忽视的区域。在对全球两栖动物多样性全面掌握前,推荐使用我们的综合评分方法来确定两栖动物栖息地保护的地理优先级,同时可以用如EDGE评分方法等作为补充。本研究为避免基于简单的物种丰富度制定保护方案所带来的缺陷提供一种新的途径,并可用于改进未来保护区的设计方案。

Conservation priority scores for each pixel relative to other pixels within the same biome, for the species richness (a), EDGE score proxy (b), and integrative scoring approach (c). We calculated global-scale priority scores for each approach by summing the scores (or number) of species overlapping each grid cell. We scaled these scores to biome level by dividing the score of each pixel by the score of the highest-scoring pixel within the same biome. Our biome-scale adjustments highlight several key areas for conserving temperate and xeric-adapted amphibians, which are not visually apparent in our global-scale maps.

这一新方法可用来重新制定东北亚两栖动物保护规划,因为它强调了在保护优先级评估中常被忽视的区域的重要性。

Details of conservation priorities for amphibians in northeast Asia

*Clicking on this link is considered as a private request to the authors

An integrative synthesis to global amphibian conservation priorities

New publication (PDF here*) in collaboration with Sky Button from Washington State University published in Global Change Biology: An integrative synthesis to global amphibian conservation priorities.

Human activities are driving many species to the brink of extinction, and the current distribution of protected areas only weakly alleviates pressure on threatened species. This discrepancy reflects the presence of protected areas on lands available instead of the ecological, evolutionary, or conservation values of species present. Habitat loss consequently continues to impact threatened species, as illustrated by geographic patterns of biodiversity loss for amphibians.

Given the need to better align the boundaries of protected areas with at-risk biodiversity, we assessed the importance of various factors for identifying global and biome-level conservation priority areas, specifically for amphibians. We identified, mapped, and ranked areas of critical conservation importance for all amphibian species on earth using a new integrative tool that scores the urgency of conserving each species and location based on a combination of species characteristics and ecoregion-level human impacts. Our integrative approach is novel in that it accounts for likely threats to Data Deficient species, considers the irreplaceability of unique species that are phylogenetically isolated, and addresses the localized conservation implications of species endemicity and projected future human impacts to an ecoregion.

For comparison, we also mapped and ranked amphibian biodiversity using species richness and an Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) score proxy. Our integrative approach predicted key regions for amphibian conservation that were not apparent when using a simple species richness or EDGE score proxy-based approach.

Relative conservation priority scores for amphibians using species richness (a), EDGE score proxy
(b), and the integrative approach (c). We calculated priority scores for each approach by summing the scores (or number) of species overlapping each grid cell. The spatial distribution of high-scoring pixels differed considerably among the three approaches, with the integrative and EDGE score proxy approaches suggesting higher conservation priorities in the Paleotropics than the species richness approach

Furthermore, by scaling conservation priority scores relative to biome, we identified several temperate and xeric regions of crucial yet overlooked conservation importance for amphibians. Until global amphibian diversity is thoroughly catalogued, we recommend using our integrative scoring approach to set geographic priorities for amphibian habitat protection, while acknowledging that this approach may be complemented by others (e.g., EDGE scores). Our study provides an avenue for avoiding common pitfalls of more simplistic species richness-based approaches for conservation planning, and can be used to improve the future design of protected areas.

Conservation priority scores for each pixel relative to other pixels within the same biome, for the species richness (a), EDGE score proxy (b), and integrative scoring approach (c). We calculated global-scale priority scores for each approach by summing the scores (or number) of species overlapping each grid cell. We scaled these scores to biome level by dividing the score of each pixel by the score of the highest-scoring pixel within the same biome. Our biome-scale adjustments highlight several key areas for conserving temperate and xeric-adapted amphibians, which are not visually apparent in our global-scale maps.

This new approach is a game changer for amphibian conservation in northeast Asia, as it highlight areas that are usually ignored from conservation priotities.

Details of conservation priorities for amphibians in northeast Asia.

*Clicking on this link is considered as a private request to the authors

An update on amphibians of DPR Korea!

New publication updating the knowledge on all amphibian species of DPR Korea! A large piece of work, including 21 co-authors, and all amphibian experts of DPR Korea! (Official link here).

Determining the range, status, ecology and behaviour of species from areas where surveys and samplings are uncommon or difficult to conduct is a challenge, such as in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR Korea). Here, we used genetic samples, field surveys, call recordings, photographic identification and a literature review to estimate the presence, range and status of amphibians in the DPR Korea.

Amphibian species richness for all amphibian species recorded in DPR Korea. This map combines MaxEnt models using a sum of presence probabilities. See full text for details.

From our combined results and based on the IUCN Red List categories and criteria, we were able to estimate the national threat levels for most species. Our results demonstrated the presence of 18 native species and the suspected presence of Karsenia koreana and two Onychodactylus species. We reported the first record for Rana uenoi in the vicinity of Pyongyang using molecular tools and similarly confirmed the presence of Dryophytes japonicus at the same location.

Description of presence models used for each species in DPR Korea. The surface area in km2 provided matches with the 10-percentile training and the 95% presence used in models. IUCN threat levels as of February 2019 (www.iucnredlist.org). See full text for details.

Based on distribution and modelling, we can expect the contact zone between species within the Rana and Onychodactylus genera to be located along the Changbai Massif, a mountain range that marks a shift in ecoregions and acts as a barrier to dispersion.

The species richness was higher in the lowlands and at lower latitudes, with such areas populated by up to 11 species, while more northern regions were characterised by species richness of about half of that value. The combination of ecological models and known threats resulted in the recommendation of ten species as threatened at the national level following the IUCN Red List categories and criteria. This high number of threatened species was anticipated based on the high threat level to amphibians in bordering nations and globally.

While the ecology of species in the DPR Korea is still understudied, we argue that species relying on agricultural wetlands such as rice paddies are not under imminent threat due to the enduring presence of extensive agricultural landscapes with low rates of chemical use and mechanisation. The maintenance of such landscapes is a clear benefit to amphibian species, in contrast to more industrialised agricultural landscapes in neighbouring nations. In comparison, the status of species dependent on forested habitats is unclear and threat levels are likely to be higher because of deforestation, as in neighbouring nations.

MaxEnt models for all amphibian species recorded in DPR Korea. See full text for details.