TURNING POPULATION TREND MONITORING INTO ACTIVE CONSERVATION: CAN WE SAVE THE CASCADES FROG (RANA CASCADAE) IN THE LASSEN REGION OF CALIFORNIA?

Gary Fellers, Karen Pope, Jonathan Stead, Michelle Koo, Hartwell Welsh
Herpetological Conservation and Biology   unpublished
Monitoring the distribution, population size, and trends of declining species is necessary to evaluate their vulnerability to extinction. It is the responsibility of scientists to alert management professionals of the need for preemptive action if a species approaches imminent, regional extirpation. This is the case with Rana cascadae (Cascades Frog) populations near Lassen Peak. From 1993 to 2007, we conducted 1,873 amphibian surveys at 856 sites within Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lassen
more » ... nal Park and Lassen National Forest, California, USA. These surveys encompassed all R. cascadae habitats: ponds, lakes, meadows, and streams on those lands. We found frogs at only six sites during 14 years of surveys, and obtained one report of a single frog at one additional locality. These sites represented < 1% of the historically suitable habitat within the Lassen region. The number of R. cascadae in the Lassen area has declined since 1991, and one population is now extirpated. We found no evidence of reproduction in most of the populations, and reproduction at all but one of the other sites remained lower than the annual reproductive output of one breeding pair for > 12 years. Causes for the decline remain unclear, but introduced trout, disease, and pesticides are likely factors. We recommend that (1) additional protection for R. cascadae within 50 km of Lassen Peak; (2) investigation of the genetics of R. cascadae in California; (3) research into the role of possible causative factors in these declines; and (4) implementation of a feasibility study to captive breed and reintroduce R. cascadae in the Lassen area.
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