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Reid N.,Queens University of Belfast | Dingerkus S.K.,Bohola Co. | Stone R.E.,Bohola Co. | Buckley J.,Amphibian and Reptile Conservation | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Herpetology | Year: 2014

Ponds are an ephemeral feature of the landscape but their large-scale loss can have profound implications for biodiversity and the persistence of amphibian populations. We quantified rates of pond loss throughout Ireland over a period of approximately 125 yr. Environmental parameters and perceived risk factors associated with the current occurrence and density of the Common Frog, Rana temporaria, were also analyzed. The numbers of farmland ponds declined by 54% between 1887-1913 and 2005-11, with most ponds and the greatest losses in the East, coincident with agricultural intensification and human habitation. The decline of pond numbers was significant but, at approximately 0.5% per annum, was substantially less than losses recorded in other European countries. Losses were coincident with major changes to the agricultural landscape including extensive land drainage. However, losses of pond and natural wetland habitats throughout Ireland may have been partially or wholly mitigated by a synchronous expansion of artificial field margin ditches associated with drainage projects during the mid-20th Century. The ecology of the Common Frog in Ireland was similar to its ecology elsewhere and it appears largely unaffected by pollution and disturbance. Consequently, the conservation status of the frog in Ireland was judged "favorable" and should remain so for the foreseeable future. Copyright 2014 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Source

Reid N.,Queens University of Belfast | Dingerkus S.K.,Bohola Co. | Stone R.E.,Bohola Co. | Pietravalle S.,UK Environment Agency | And 5 more authors.
Animal Conservation | Year: 2013

Global amphibian declines are a major element of the current biodiversity crisis. Monitoring changes in the distribution and abundance of target species is a basic component in conservation decision making and requires robust and repeatable sampling. For EU member states, surveillance of designated species, including the common frog Rana temporaria, is a formal requirement of the 'EC Habitats & Species Directive'. We deployed established methods for estimating frog population density at local water bodies and extrapolated these to the national and ecoregion scale. Spawn occurred at 49.4% of water bodies and 70.1% of independent 500-m survey squares. Using spawn mat area, we estimated the number of adult breeding females and subsequently the total population assuming a sex ratio of 1:1. A negative binomial model suggested that mean frog density was 23.5 frogsha-1 [95% confidence interval (CI) 14.9-44.0] equating to 196M frogs (95%CI 124M-367M) throughout Ireland. A total of 86% of frogs bred in drainage ditches, which were a notably common feature of the landscape. The recorded distribution of the species did not change significantly between the last Article 17 reporting period (1993-2006) and the current period (2007-2011) throughout the Republic of Ireland. Recording effort was markedly lower in Northern Ireland, which led to an apparent decline in the recorded distribution. We highlight the need to coordinate biological surveys between adjacent political jurisdictions that share a common ecoregion to avoid apparent disparities in the quality of distributional information. Power analysis suggested that a reduced sample of 40-50 survey squares is sufficient to detect a 30% decline (consistent with the International Union for Conservation of Nature Category of 'Vulnerable') at 80% power providing guidance for minimizing future survey effort. Our results provide a test case for other EU member states to follow when conducting future conservation assessments for R.temporaria and other clump-spawning amphibians. © 2013 The Zoological Society of London. Source

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