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Posted on September 2nd, 2014

Back to School – Mexican Amphibians

Extinction stinks. I know many of us really apply that attitude when we think of the cute and cuddly varmints around the world that are facing the end of their bloodline; and probably far less so when it comes to a bug or plant. But every organism in our ecosystem plays its role, and due to changing environmental realities mainly caused by humans’ inevitably destructive presence, some species check out sooner than they would otherwise, or at least sooner than we would like them to. In this vein, researchers from the UK and Mexico conducted a study to examine the availability of limited resources and how they should be allocated to prevent the greatest amount of species extinction.

Threat status of Mexico’s micro-endemic buffered areas (AMBAs). The graph shows the number of AMBAs in each threat category.

Due to the concerns surrounding biodiversity that first arose as long ago as the mid-19th Century, there has been an increased effort at systematic conservation planning (SCP) to provide a process for methodological analysis and identification of priority areas for conservation. This ultimately leads to the establishment of protected areas (PAs) which attempt to reduce human disturbances. By establishing conservation goals, those interested in SCP can make a fully informed decision about areas and species whose loss will affect a chain reaction; and these considerations include evolutionary history, functional diversity and natural history, among other deliberations.

This paper sought to look at the dispersal and habitat of Mexican amphibians, of which there are 372 species native to Mexico; of these species, 250 are endemic, and 145 of the 250 are micro-endemic. Micro-endemic species have a much smaller range of livelihood, some as small as only a few hundred acres. The researchers examined the threat-level status of each species, rating them between a zero and five, with five being the highest risk for extinction. After threat-level status was calculated, the authors evaluated current specific threats to each organism that resided in the area as either natural or human-made. This allowed for the creation of a matrix for a more complete assessment of treatment procedure when it came time to evaluate preservation strategies.

Due to the presence of humans in some of the most precious areas within the study, the researchers noted that public and private awareness was key to initiating the process of measurement and valuation of species’ needs and likelihood of survival. Because resources for this type of study and conservation strategy are very limited, and considering that may of the PAs (i.e. 80%) are on private land, there needs to be a team effort accompanied with an understanding and appreciation of the need to preserve species from the greater population. The authors found that by focusing on micro-endemic species and partnering with the necessary lay people to provide research access and limit other forms of intrusion, there could be a bottom-up understanding of how to best allocate resources for species with larger natural ranges in future studies.

Justin Harmon
Staff Writer

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