The worldwide decline in amphibians has been attributed to several causes, especially habitat loss and disease. We identified a further factor, namely "habitat split"-defined as human-induced disconnection between habitats used by different life history stages of a species-which forces forest-associated amphibians with aquatic larvae to make risky breeding migrations between suitable aquatic and terrestrial habitats. In the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, we found that habitat split negatively affects the richness of species with aquatic larvae but not the richness of species with terrestrial development (the latter can complete their life cycle inside forest remnants). This mechanism helps to explain why species with aquatic larvae have the highest incidence of population decline. These findings reinforce the need for the conservation and restoration of riparian vegetation.
The year 2000 marks 500 years of massive destruction for the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, as a consequence of the European colonization of Brazil. Today, the Atlantic Forest is restricted to ca 98,800 km2 of remnants, or 7.6 percent of its original extension. The Atlantic Forest continues to suffer under severe anthropogenic pressure, risking imminent extinction of the remaining species. Our current knowledge indicates that this complex biome contains a species diversity higher than most of the Amazon forests, and also has high levels of endemism. The 13 selected articles in this special issue present data on the natural history, ecology, sustainable management, and conservation of the Atlantic Forest. These articles represent a sample of the research conducted to date in the region and suggest avenues of future research, particularly with regard to conservation alternatives for the remaining portions of the Atlantic Forest. This special issue represents one of the first general references pertaining to the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.
Annual patterns of breeding activity, reproductive modes, and habitat use are described for a frog community in a seasonal environment, in the southern Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Data were collected monthly between January 1995 and December 1998. A total of 24 species from four families; Bufonidae (3 species), Hylidae (10 species), Leptodactylidae (9 species), and Microhylidae (2 species) were registered. Three reproductive activity patterns are recognized among these species: continuous, explosive, and prolonged; 50% of the species were explosive breeders. Seasonal pattern of reproduction was verified for three analyzed years (1995-1997); most species reproduced during the rainy season (Nov-Jan). The reproduction was aseasonal in 1998; unexpected rains in the dry season lead to an unusual breeding activity. Five reproductive modes were noted — 62.5% of the species have the generalized aquatic mode, and 33.3% deposit eggs embedded in foam nests. Many species used the same sites for reproduction, although temporal partitioning and calling site segregation was observed. The occurrence of many species that exhibit explosive breeding early in the rainy season is common in seasonal and open environments with variable and unpredictable rainfall, as is the case in the Pantanal.
The vertebrate predators of post-metamorphic anurans were quantified and the predator-prey relationship was investigated by analysing the relative size of invertebrate predators and anurans. More than 100 vertebrate predators were identified (in more than 200 reports) and classified as opportunistic, convenience, temporary specialized and specialized predators. Invertebrate predators were classified as solitary non-venomous, venomous and social foragers according to 333 reviewed reports. Each of these categories of invertebrate predators was compared with the relative size of the anurans, showing an increase in the relative size of the prey when predators used special predatory tactics. The number of species and the number of families of anurans that were preyed upon did not vary with the size of the predator, suggesting that prey selection was not arbitrary and that energetic constraints must be involved in this choice. The relatively low predation pressure upon brachycephalids was related to the presence of some defensive strategies of its species. This compounding review can be used as the foundation for future advances in vertebrate predator-prey interactions.
Most amphibian species have biphasic life histories and undergo an ontogenetic shift from aquatic to terrestrial habitats. In deforested landscapes, streams and forest fragments are frequently disjunct, jeopardizing the life cycle of forest-associated amphibians with aquatic larvae. We tested the impact of habitat split--defined as human-induced disconnection between habitats used by different life-history stages of a species--on four forest-associated amphibian species in a severely fragmented landscape of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. We surveyed amphibians in forest fragments with and without streams (referred to as wet and dry fragments, respectively), including the adjacent grass-field matrix. Our comparison of capture rates in dry fragments and nearby streams in the matrix allowed us to evaluate the number of individuals that engaged in high-risk migrations through nonforested habitats. Adult amphibians moved from dry fragments to matrix streams at the beginning of the rainy season, reproduced, and returned at the end of the breeding period. Juveniles of the year moved to dry fragments along with adults. These risky reproductive migrations through nonforested habitats that expose individuals to dehydration, predation, and other hazards may cause population declines in dry fragments. Indeed, capture rates were significantly lower in dry fragments compared with wet fragments. Declining amphibians would strongly benefit from investments in the conservation and restoration of riparian vegetation and corridors linking breeding and nonbreeding areas.
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