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Survival Estimates for Reintroduced Populations of the Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis)

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Abstract

Global amphibian declines have been attributed to a number of factors including disease, invasive species, habitat degradation, and climate change. Reintroduction is one management action that is commonly used with the goal of recovering imperiled species. The success of reintroductions varies widely, and evaluating their efficacy requires estimates of population viability metrics, such as underlying vital rates and trends in abundance. Although rarely quantified, assessing vital rates for recovering populations provides a more mechanistic understanding of population growth than numerical trends in population occupancy or abundance. We used three years of capture-mark-recapture data from three breeding ponds and a Cormack-Jolly-Seber model to estimate annual apparent survival for reintroduced populations of the federally threatened Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis) at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR), in the Altar Valley, Arizona, USA. To place our results in context, we also compiled published survival estimates for other ranids. Average apparent survival of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs at BANWR was 0.27 (95% CI [0.07, 0.74]) and average individual capture probability was 0.02 (95% CI [0, 0.05]). Our apparent survival estimate for Chiricahua Leopard Frogs is lower than for most other ranids and is not consistent with recent research that showed metapopulation viability in the Altar Valley is high. We suggest that low apparent survival may be indicative of high emigration rates. We recommend that future research should estimate emigration rates so that actual, rather than apparent, survival can be quantified to improve population viability assessments of threatened species following reintroduction efforts.

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Howell, P. E., Hossack, B. R., Muths, E., Sigafus, B. H., & Chandler, R. B. (2016). Survival Estimates for Reintroduced Populations of the Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis). Copeia, 104(4), 824–830. https://doi.org/10.1643/CE-16-406

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