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Volunteer conservation action data reveals large-scale and long-term negative population trends of a widespread amphibian, the common toad (bufo bufo)


Petrovan, Silviu O; Schmidt, B R (2016). Volunteer conservation action data reveals large-scale and long-term negative population trends of a widespread amphibian, the common toad (bufo bufo). PLoS ONE, 11(10):e0161943.

Abstract

Rare and threatened species are the most frequent focus of conservation science and action. With the ongoing shift from single-species conservation towards the preservation of ecosystem services, there is a greater need to understand abundance trends of common species because declines in common species can disproportionately impact ecosystems function. We used volunteer-collected data in two European countries, the United Kingdom (UK) and Switzerland, since the 1970s to assess national and regional trends for one of Europe’s most abundant amphibian species, the common toad (Bufo bufo). Millions of toads were moved by volunteers across roads during this period in an effort to protect them from road traffic. For Switzerland, we additionally estimated trends for the common frog (Rana temporaria), a similarly widespread and common amphibian species. We used state-space models to account for variability in detection and effort and included only populations with at least 5 years of data; 153 populations for the UK and 141 for Switzerland. Common toads declined continuously in each decade in both countries since the 1980s. Given the declines, this common species almost qualifies for International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listing over this period despite volunteer conservation efforts. Reasons for the declines and wider impacts remain unknown. By contrast, common frog populations were stable or increasing in Switzerland, although there was evidence of declines after 2003. “Toads on Roads” schemes are vital citizen conservation action projects, and the data from such projects can be used for large scale trend estimations of widespread amphibians. We highlight the need for increased research into the status of common amphibian species in addition to conservation efforts focusing on rare and threatened species.

Abstract

Rare and threatened species are the most frequent focus of conservation science and action. With the ongoing shift from single-species conservation towards the preservation of ecosystem services, there is a greater need to understand abundance trends of common species because declines in common species can disproportionately impact ecosystems function. We used volunteer-collected data in two European countries, the United Kingdom (UK) and Switzerland, since the 1970s to assess national and regional trends for one of Europe’s most abundant amphibian species, the common toad (Bufo bufo). Millions of toads were moved by volunteers across roads during this period in an effort to protect them from road traffic. For Switzerland, we additionally estimated trends for the common frog (Rana temporaria), a similarly widespread and common amphibian species. We used state-space models to account for variability in detection and effort and included only populations with at least 5 years of data; 153 populations for the UK and 141 for Switzerland. Common toads declined continuously in each decade in both countries since the 1980s. Given the declines, this common species almost qualifies for International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listing over this period despite volunteer conservation efforts. Reasons for the declines and wider impacts remain unknown. By contrast, common frog populations were stable or increasing in Switzerland, although there was evidence of declines after 2003. “Toads on Roads” schemes are vital citizen conservation action projects, and the data from such projects can be used for large scale trend estimations of widespread amphibians. We highlight the need for increased research into the status of common amphibian species in addition to conservation efforts focusing on rare and threatened species.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:amphibian, decline, common toad, Bufo bufo, Dail-Madsen model
Language:English
Date:5 October 2016
Deposited On:10 Oct 2016 14:17
Last Modified:06 Aug 2017 15:10
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0161943
PubMed ID:27706154

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