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Identifying core habitat before it’s too late: the case of Bombina variegata, an internationally endangered amphibian

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Impending land-use change, including agricultural intensification, is increasingly threatening biodiversity in traditional rural landscapes. To ensure the persistence of species that are vulnerable to land-use change it is necessary to identify and protect high quality habitat before species start to decline. Given that many potentially vulnerable species are still widespread in traditional rural landscapes, it is difficult to identify particularly important locations for such species. Presence–absence data on a given species may have limited application in such cases. As an alternative to presence–absence data, we investigated the influence of environmental variables on the physiological body condition of Bombina variegata (yellow-bellied toad) in a traditional rural landscape in Transylvania, Romania. The species is internationally endangered but remains common throughout our study area. Based on body condition measurements of 550 toads from 60 ponds, we found that toads in forest ponds had significantly better body condition than those in pasture ponds, indicating that forest landscapes provided particularly high quality habitat. We suggest that measures such as body condition—in addition to distribution data—could have considerable application in identifying high quality habitat for other species that are still widespread in traditional landscapes, but have declined in modernised, but otherwise similar landscapes.

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The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript and H. von Wehrden for insightful discussions. BS wassupported by a Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions Early Career Researcher visiting fellowship. TH was supported by an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship. JF was supported by a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Correspondence to B. C. Scheele.

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Scheele, B.C., Boyd, C.E., Fischer, J. et al. Identifying core habitat before it’s too late: the case of Bombina variegata, an internationally endangered amphibian. Biodivers Conserv 23, 775–780 (2014).

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