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Threats to aquatic taxa in an arid landscape: Knowledge gaps and areas of understanding for amphibians of the American Southwest

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Abstract The American Southwest is a dryland region with variable, seasonal precipitation, and a wide range of freshwater habitats. Amphibians are among the diverse freshwater taxa that rely on aquatic habitats of the southwest, yet the state‐of‐the‐science regarding vulnerability of the region’s amphibians to threats recognized globally is unclear. To address this knowledge gap, we reviewed 81 publications and 341 species:threat relationships to assess coverage in the peer‐reviewed literature of potential threats to 35 amphibians native to the region. We classified threats into three major categories: climate change, biological, and land use. Using a new trait database for anurans (frogs and toads) of the United States, we evaluated these threats in the context of life history diversity of the region's anurans. We found high coverage for hydrological alteration and introduced species as well as changes to community dynamics, land use, and precipitation. Other potential threats—particularly those linked to climate change such as changes in seasonality and fire—had comparatively low coverage. Coverage varied widely among species, with the number of reported species:threat relationships ranging from 37 (the lowland leopard frog, Lithobates yavapaiensis) to no coverage for some species—including some of conservation concern (e.g., Sacramento Mountains salamander, Aneides hardii). Our findings support leveraging available information to test hypothesized linkages between amphibian life histories and risk and response to threats; using high coverage species and threats to inform simulations and experiments exploring species:threat relationships and efficacy of management strategies; and addressing knowledge gaps for species and threats with no proxies through on‐the‐ground natural history efforts. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
Principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of 106 anuran species found within the continental United States. Anurans are ordinated in multivariate trait space based on eight life history traits (from ATraiU, Moore et al. in revision). Focal species found within our region of interest (red, yellow, or blue) are distinguished from anurans found in other areas of the United States (gray). Groupings within 95% confidence intervals are shown with ellipses for focal species (black) and other United States anurans (gray). Among focal species, species are distinguished by level of conservation status designation at both the federal and state level (red), only at the state level (yellow), or no designation at the federal or state level (blue) (Table S2). Size of each focal species' point is scaled by number of species:threat relationships for that species in our literature review
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(a) Amphibian species richness for each Level III ecoregion in the American Southwest (b, inset)
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Major and minor categories of factors (threats). Changes in these factors are known to constitute threats to amphibians worldwide, and we focus on how change to these factors has affected or may affect amphibians in the American Southwest
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Counts by species of species:threat relationships found in the peer‐reviewed literature, grouped by specific threats and major threat categories: (a) climate, (b) biological, (c) land use. We did not include species with no species:threat relationships reported for a major threat category. Colors coordinate with species:threat relationship counts by threats in Figure 4
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Counts by species of species:threat relationships found in the peer‐reviewed literature, grouped by major threat categories. We did not include species with no species:threat relationships reported
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Counts by threat of species:threat relationships found in the literature, grouped by major threat categories and distinguishing direct (hatched) from indirect (solid). Colors coordinate with species:threat relationship counts by species in Figure 6
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Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems

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