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Keywords:

  • amphibians;
  • climate change;
  • Limnodynastes tasmaniensis;
  • predictive modelling;
  • urbanization

Abstract

Climate change and urbanization are among the most serious threats to amphibians, although little is known about their combined effects. We used a predictive spatial habitat suitability model to explore the potential impacts of climate change and urban development on the spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) on the urban-fringe of Melbourne, Australia. The CSIRO climate-change predictions for the region indicate likely temperature increases of 3°C, and annual rainfall reductions of around 200 mm by the year 2070. Much of the study area overlaps a region that has been identified as one of the city's growth corridors. We used Bayesian logistic regression modelling to estimate current and future habitat suitability of pond sites in the Merri Creek catchment, exploring a range of best- to worst-case scenarios through the use of hydrological and urbanization models. Our predictions for 2070, even under a moderate climate-change scenario, suggest that the majority of ponds in the study area will be dry throughout much of the year. This has obvious implications for L. tasmaniensis, which is an aquatic breeding species. However, in the short term, urbanization is likely to have a more significant effect on the distribution of L. tasmaniensis in the Merri Creek catchment, particularly if development moves beyond the current urban growth boundary. The combined effects of climate change and urbanization could have a profound impact on the species, potentially causing it to disappear from within the study area. We provide recommendations for including such predictive models in urban planning and restoration activities to prepare for future conservation challenges.