, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 290-303

Global amphibian declines: a perspective from the Caribbean

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Recent concern over the possibility of a global decline in amphibians prompted this assessment of the West Indian species. At the species level, the West Indian amphibian fauna (156 species, all frogs and toads) has not undergone a general decline, and no species is known to be extinct. However, one Puerto Rican species (Eleutherodactylus karlschmidti) has not been seen in over ten years despite considerable search effort. Seven other species, including the Puerto Rican livebearing frog (E. jasperi), have not been seen recently, although their present status cannot be determined until additional effort is made to locate them. Two stream-associated species on Hispaniola (E. semipalmatus and Hyla vasta) appear to have declined in recont years, probably due to the alteration of riparian habitats by deforestation. Other vertebrate groups in the West Indies, such as mammals, have been more affected by human-caused environmental degradation than have amphibians. Large-scale extinctions of frogs and other forest-dwelling species are not expected to occur until forest cover reaches very low levels. Haiti is on the brink of such extinctions with less than 1% of its forest cover remaining. Two recommendations are made to help curtail the expected loss of biodiversity: (i) import charcoal to replace that produced by burning native trees (used as cooking fuel), as an immediate measure, and (ii) control human population growth, as a long-term solution.