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Climate Change and Herpetofauna

Solar Powered Pump

Windmill and solar-powered pump installed to retain water levels in ponds, New Mexico, USA.
Photo credit: C. Kruse, Turner Enterprises, Inc.

Amphibians and reptiles are particularly sensitive
to temperature and moisture conditions. Our world
working group is working on what might be done
at local scales to forestall effects of climate variation.

Research Description:

As scenarios of variable climate conditions unfold, species at the limits of their environmental tolerances will be especially at risk.
In addition to predicting effects of altered climates on herpetofauna, management alternatives need to be designed to ensure habitat
quality and connectivity. Vulnerabilities will need to be assessed.

PARC is bridging the science-management interface relative to identifying known and potential consequences of climate variation
on amphibians and reptiles, and communicating adaptation management approaches.

In 2011, the following 5 projects are underway:

1. Brochure on Climate Change & Amphibians and Reptiles

Bridging Science and Management of Amphibians and Reptiles: Climate Change(2/1/11 version)

This is a product of the ‘Amphibian Response to Climate Change Workshop’ held in Springbrook, Australia, 23-24 August 2009. Thanks to
Dr. Jean-Marc Hero for convening the session and world amphibian experts, to Dr. Luke Shoo for leading the writing of the journal article
Engineering a Future for Amphibians with Climate Change” published in 2011 in Journal of Applied Ecology, and to all workshop participants
for their input and concern for worldwide amphibians facing the effects of climate change.

2. Showcase of Herpetofaunal Climate Change Adaptation Management Tools

This showcase is currently focusing on selected novel engineering solutions to maintain amphibian and reptile habitat conditions that
might be altered by climate variation. We will periodically add new examples. Submissions may be sent to Dede Olson.

Solar Powered Pump

Figure A

Solar powered pump close up

Figure B

Log Directional Felling

Figure C

Figure C – Log Directional Felling into Ponds to Assist Metamorph Dispersal, Washington, USA. Logs provide microclimate refugia and likely refuge from predation; several pond-breeding species appear to benefit. “14 Lakes Habitat Enhancement Project”, design by Heidy Barnett, Seattle Public Utilities. Photo credit: Sally Nickelson, Cedar River Watershed. For more information visit, Measuring Success for: Pond-Breeding Amphibians.

Portable irrigation sprayers

Figure D

Figure D – Portable irrigation sprayers manipulate water potentials at breeding sites for the terrestrial toadlet Pseudophryne bibronii in South Australia. Photo credit: Nicola Mitchell

Figure A and Figure B – Windmill and solar-powered pump installed to retain water levels in ponds, New Mexico, USA. Project provides habitat for threatened Chiricahua Leopard Frogs. Project implementation: Turner Ranch Properties, L.P.; M. Christman, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo credit, Figure A: C. Kruse, Turner Enterprises, Inc. Photo credit, Figure B, showing grazing exclosure: Bruce Christman.

Figures E and F: Livestock watering structures such as tanks and troughs can provide important sources of water for bats, birds, reptiles,
and other wildlife in the arid western U.S. As development, drought, and climate change increase pressure on natural water sources, these structures
may become even more critical. However, especially at low water levels, animals like this Western Fence Lizard can become trapped in the tank,
and often die. The Aquatic Escape Ramp Project, a cooperative project of USFS Region 5, Bat Conservation International, and Partners in
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, seeks to address this problem by bringing prototype affordable, effective escape structures to water sources
on national forest lands. For more info, see Water for Wildlife. Photos by Kary Schlick, USFS R5.

Western Fence Lizard trapped in nearly-empty water trough

Figure E

Lizard climbs to freedom on escape ramp

Figure F

Figures G, H, and I: Cap Open-top Vertical Pipes! Although this is not a very innovative engineering solution, and it is not really related to climate change, it warrants
special consideration because open-topped pipes can be quite prevalent. Capping or removing such pipes used as sign posts, fence posts, survey markers, irrigation
systems, or for other purposes can aid much more than herpetofauna. Read more here: Open Vertical Pipes Are Deathtraps. Photos courtesy Audubon Kern River
Preserve, used with permission. Fig. G: 50-year-old uncapped vertical irrigation pipe vent. Fig H: A deep layer of bones, a dead fence lizard, and a dead Northern Flicker
were found in this pipe. Fig. I: A simple cement cap solves the problem.

50-year-old uncapped irrigation vent pipeFigure G
Deep layer of bones, dead fence lizard and Northern Flicker found inside pipe.

Figure H

A simple concrete cap over the pipe solves the problem.

Figure I

3. RRTH = Relocation, Reintroduction, Translocation, and Headstarting projects

RRTH Excel Spreadsheet (4/15/11 version)

RRTH projects are being used as stop-gap measures for rare species conservation relative to a variety of conservation concerns. These approaches can have high costs in terms of money and mortality of precious rare animals, hence lessons learned from ongoing efforts are of critical importance. PARC (Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) has begun compiling RRTH projects with amphibians and reptiles (see attached spreadsheet) in order to enhance communication among groups doing similar endeavors. Please contact RRTH project coordinators directly for their “lessons learned.” This spreadsheet will be updated occasionally. Please email Dede Olson with your updates. Worldwide projects can be added. Many thanks to PARC’s RRTH Task Team members JD Kloepfer and Tracey Tuberville for their hard work to initiate this effort.

4. Climate vulnerability modeling for priority amphibian and reptiles in US States

This is a project sponsored by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and funded by a USFWS Competitive State Wildlife Grant, and is ongoing in collaboration with researchers at University of Georgia. Species are being chosen based on species of greatest conservation need as identified in State Wildlife Action Plans, with a focus on threatened, endangered, conservation concern or those species with limited distributions. A pilot project involving Southeastern US species is near completion, and we are seeking supplemental funding to support the full national-scope completion. For information, contact Priya Nanjappa.

5. Climate Change and Lizards: Science for Managers

Due to concerns raised about the potential threats that climate variation can have on lizards, an informal working group of US federal biologists and managers has been initiated to review the related science information and science gaps, and to look for opportunities to collaborate in new research and monitoring efforts. PARC was invited to participate in this group to help coordinate efforts nationally. This workgroup hopes to have progress to report during PARC’s ‘2012 Year of the Lizard’, now being planned.