The recent decline of a New Zealand endemic : how and why did populations of Archey's frog Leiopelma archeyi crash over 1996-2001

B.D. Bell, S. Carver, Nicki Mitchell, S. Pledger

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    Abstract

    Dramatic changes have been documented in New Zealand's vertebrate faunas since human settlement, involving major declines and extinctions, but over recent years few species have declined in numbers so rapidly as the terrestrial Archey's frog Leiopelma archeyi (Anura: Leiopelmatidae). Long-term monitoring over more than 20 years revealed a major population reduction of the species over 1996-2001 and L. archeyi is now classified as Nationally Critical under the New Zealand threat classification system. The decline progressed northwards in the Coromandel ranges, and mostly larger (female) frogs survived. On a 100 m 2 study plot at Tapu Ridge, annual population estimates averaged 433 frogs (SE +/- 32) over 1984-1994, declining by 88% to average 53 frogs (SE +/- 8) over 1996-2002. A mean annual survival rate of 82% for most years declined to 33% over 1994-1997. There is mounting evidence to suggest that disease is the major agent of decline, supported by (1) the rapidity and severity of decline, (2) the progressive (south to north) nature of decline, and (3) finding frogs with chytriodiomycosis from Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis at the time of decline. Surprisingly, sympatric populations of the semi-aquatic Leiopelma hochstetteri have not declined dramatically, nor has a western population of L. archeyi at Whareorino, despite chytridiomycosis occurring in some frogs there. Sustaining and restoring populations of L. archeyi in New Zealand raises major challenges for conservation management. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)189-199
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Volume120
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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