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Six-year demographic study reveals threat of stochastic extinction for remnant populations of a threatened amphibian

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Abstract

Sustained demographic studies are essential for early detection of species decline in time for effective management response. A paucity of such background data hindered the potential for successful conservation during the global amphibian decline and remains problematic today. The current study analysed 6 years of mark-recapture data to determine the vital demographic rates in three habitat precincts of the threatened frog, Litoria aurea (Hylidae) and to understand the underlying causes of variability in population size. Variability in population size of L. aurea was similar to many pond-breeding species; however this level of fluctuation is rare among threatened amphibians. Highly variable populations are at greater risk of local extinction and the low level of connectivity between L. aurea populations means they are at a greater risk of further decline due to stochastic extinction events and incapacity to recolonize distant habitat. We recommend that management of this species should encourage recolonization through creation of habitat corridors and reintroduction of L. aurea to areas where stochastic extinction events are suspected.

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