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Seasonal, annual and decadal change in tadpole populations in tropical Australian streams: supplementary material

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journal contribution
posted on 08.04.2019 by Katrin Schmidt, Stephen Richards, Richard G. Pearson, Ross A. Alford, Robert Puschendorf
Declines due to fungal disease (chytridiomycosis) have affected many stream-dwelling frog species, especially in the tropics, leading to reduced abundance and diversity of their tadpoles. Studies in the Australian Wet Tropics have demonstrated that some frog species have declined or disappeared, while others have persisted. To assess the occurrence of stream-breeding frogs, we monitored tadpole populations of five frog species in Wet Tropics streams in the early 1990s (uplands, before chytridomycosis emergence), and in 2011–2013 (uplands and lowlands, after chytridiomycosis emergence), and investigated environmental factors that might influence tadpole abundance. Riffle-dwelling tadpoles of two frog species disappeared from the upland stream site during the 1990s, reflecting reported losses of adult populations. Tadpoles of one upland pool species initially declined but had recovered by 2011–2013. Samples from the lowlands in 2011 to 2013 indicated no similar loss. Chytridiomycosis was the likely cause of changes in tadpole abundances between the two survey periods, given its known occurrence and documented effects on adult frogs in these systems; however, we did not measure its prevalence in this study. Tadpole populations fluctuated seasonally, with abundances highest in spring and summer, reflecting the timing of frog reproduction. The most important biophysical influence on the assemblages that we measured was current velocity. Tadpole peak abundances suggest that they make a substantial contribution at the consumer level of food webs, and that their loss has altered food webs substantially in upland streams.