Life and Death After Bullfrogs: Do the Chiricahua Leopard Frogs Have a Chance?
The FROG Project has been an active research focus of CWP and partners in the Cienega Watershed since 2009. Dr. Phil Rosen and Dr. Dave Hall of the FROG Project report that by 2013 large-scale efforts were successful in eradicating and controlling bullfrog populations within the upper Cienega Creek watershed. Removal of the bullfrogs allowed for the successful re-establishment of a Chiricahua leopard frog metapopulation within the Las Cienegas Natural Conservation Area by 2014.
But for how long? Rosen and Hall note that by 2015 the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis — or chytrid for short — swept through the region with every known population becoming infected. Disease die-offs are now common in the region with 100% fall/winter frog mortality occurring in the majority of populations. The FROG Project is studying this issue by looking at population dynamics, migration, temperature profiles, water chemistry, and lifecycles of eggs/tadpoles/frogs. Early summaries are focused on several pond and open water populations along Cienega Creek and in the watershed. Many other partners also participate, including local ranchers and residents, agencies, and land managers.
The FROG Team found that three populations have not demonstrated disease die-offs and frog fall/winter survivorship is high in these three populations. Now they are investigating the reasons why these populations withstand the infection without evident effects.
Amphibians are under threats in many areas. The FROG Team wants to understand these threats and develop management recommendations to ensure the Chiricahua leopard frog persists in the region in the face of the disease.
Want to know more about frogs, native species, and the FROG Project? Go to frog.cienega.org.
Photo of Chiricahua leopard frog byJim Rorabaugh, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.