• Open Access

Quantifying Ecological Life Support: The Biological Efficacy of Alternative Supplementation Strategies for Imperiled Amphibian Populations


  • Editor Javier Simonetti


Global biodiversity loss has prompted diverse efforts to stem or reverse declines for many species. Such efforts are often implemented before the efficacy of alternative management actions is quantified. Here, we use matrix models to compare the effectiveness of two supplementation strategies, head-starting early life stages and captive breeding for reintroduction, at reducing extinction risk of declining amphibians. We use the imperiled Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) as a case study and find that when supplementation occurs after metamorphosis, captive breeding is more effective at reducing extinction risk than head-starting, but the difference declines with increasing supplementation effort. We also find that captive breeding with release as larvae yields similar reductions in extinction risk, and is two orders of magnitude more effective at reducing extinction probabilities than head-starting the same stage. Our results highlight that even basic demographic data can be leveraged to assess tradeoffs among alternative supplementation strategies.