A natural experiment identifies an impending ecological trap for a neotropical amphibian in response to extreme weather events
amphibians, Costa Rica, disturbance, natural experiment, trade offs, ultraviolet radiation
Extreme weather events are predicted to increase as a result of climate change, yet amphibian responses to extreme disturbance events remain understudied, especially in the Neotropics. Recently, an unprecedented windstorm within a protected Costa Rican rainforest opened large light gaps in sites where we have studied behavioral responses of diurnal strawberry poison frogs (Oophaga pumilio) to ultraviolet radiation for nearly two decades. Previous studies demonstrate that O. pumilio selects and defends perches where ultraviolet radiation (UV-B) is relatively low, likely because of the lethal and sublethal effects of UV-B. In this natural experiment, we quantified disturbance to O. pumilio habitat, surveyed for the presence of O. pumilio in both high-disturbance and low-disturbance areas of the forest, and assessed UV-B levels and perch selection behavior in both disturbance levels. Fewer frogs were detected in high-disturbance habitat than in low-disturbance habitat. In general, frogs were found vocalizing at perches in both disturbance levels, and in both cases, in significantly lower UV-B levels relative to ambient adjacent surroundings. However, frogs at perches in high-disturbance areas were exposed to UV-B levels nearly 10 times greater than males at perches in low-disturbance areas. Thus, behavioral avoidance of UV-B may not reduce the risks associated with elevated exposure under these novel conditions, and similarly, if future climate and human-driven land-use change lead to sustained analogous environments.
Ecology and Evolution
Clark, M. A., Ota, W. M., Smith, S. J., Muramoto, B. K., Ngo, S., Chan, G. E., Kenyon, M. A., Sturtevant, M. C., Diamond, M. G., Bucciarelli, G. M., & Kats, L. B. (2022). A natural experiment identifies an impending ecological trap for a neotropical amphibian in response to extreme weather events. Ecology and Evolution, 12, e8848. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8848
Publication can be accessed at this link: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8848