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Remote sensing and citizen science to characterize the ecological niche of an endemic and endangered Costa Rican poison frog

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-17, 09:03 authored by Marina Garrido-Priego, David Aaragonés, H. Christoph Liedtke, Andrew Whitworth, Ivan Gomez-Mestre

Habitat encroachment can have devastating effects upon biodiversity, especially amphibians. Phyllobates vittatus is an endemic frog from Costa Rica, where land cover has seen significant changes over recent decades. Here we use remote sensing to create a land cover map of the region and carry out ecological niche modelling to identify the main abiotic factors associated to the distribution of this species. We have informed our models based on our own field observations, those from other researchers, and citizen science participants to obtain a comprehensive database of P. vittatus occurrences. Elevation, forest percentage, distance to lakes and rivers, annual temperature range and precipitation variables were found to shape the ecological niche of P. vittatus, which is mostly located within protected areas. Prior knowledge of the habitat of the species was key to interpret the model output. We identify populations that might be isolated, and areas where presence has not yet been verified or that have not been occupied by the species, thus, identifying potential areas for reintroductions. We also calculated the area of occupancy and suggested to reassess P. vittatus’ as “Endangered”. Future surveys and evaluation of population health and connectivity would help to better ensure the protection of the species in the long-term.