Frog survival and population viability in an agricultural landscape with a drying climate
School of Science / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Funding information available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/1438-390X.1001
Amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate in the world. Although a number of causes of the amphibian decline phenomenon are emerging, there is a need for robust demographic data to be able to monitor current and future threats such as climate change. Despite this, few studies on amphibians have the life‐history data available to undertake these analyses and fewer still have looked at the challenges to population viability posed by fragmentation—a feature inherent in agricultural landscapes where the matrix is highly modified. Our aim was to investigate the population viability of a large burrowing frog in an agricultural landscape. Specifically, we aimed to investigate the future persistence of populations under a range of scenarios including populations connected by various levels of dispersal and reduced rainfall. We used the life‐history parameters of Heleioporus albopunctatus, a frog species widely distributed in the extensively cleared agricultural regions of south‐western Australia. We investigated the viability of 24 partially connected populations under a range of scenarios using the program Vortex Version 10.1.6.0. Metapopulations were consistently more robust to extinction than isolated local populations. Both meta‐ and local populations were more susceptible to increases in age‐specific mortality rates than to variation in the estimated ability of H. albopunctatus to disperse between breeding ponds, the survival rate of dispersers, or the frequency of drought. Our results reinforce the importance of metapopulations for survival in fragmented landscapes and point to the need to manage amphibian breeding ponds across landscapes to ensure high survival rates, particularly for juveniles.