Can the introduction of Xenopus laevis affect native amphibian populations? Reduction of reproductive occurrence in presence of the invasive species
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Biological invasions are regarded as a form of global change and potential cause of biodiversity loss. Xenopus laevis is an anuran amphibian native to sub-Saharan Africa with strong invasive capacity, especially in geographic regions with a Mediterranean climate. In spite of the worldwide diffusion of X. laevis, the effective impact on local ecosystems and native amphibian populations is poorly quantified. A large population of X. laevis occurs in Sicily and our main aim of this work was to assess the consequences of introduction of this alien species on local amphibian populations. In this study we compare the occurrence of reproduction of native amphibians in ponds with and without X. laevis, and before and after the alien colonization. The results of our study shows that, when X. laevis establishes a conspicuous population in a pond system, the populations of Discoglossus pictus, Hyla intermedia and Pelophylax synklepton esculentus show clear signs of distress and the occurrence of reproduction of these native amphibians collapses. In contrast, the populations of Bufo bufo do not appear to be affected by the alien species. Since the Sicilian population of X. laevis shows a strong dispersal capacity, proportionate and quick interventions become necessary to bound the detriment to the Sicilian amphibians populations.