Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative: Concepts and Implementation

By Paul Stephen Corn, Michael J. Adams, William A. Battaglin, Alisa L. Gallant, Daniel L. James, Melinda Knutson, Catherine A. Langtimm, and John R. Sauer

Available from the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5015, 23 p., 3 figs.

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The citation for this report, in USGS format, is as follows:
Corn, Paul Stephen, Adams, Michael J., Battaglin, William A., Gallant, Alisa L., James, Daniel L., Knutson, Melinda, Langtimm, Catherine A., and Sauer, John R., 2005, Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative--Concepts and implementation: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5015, 23 p.

History, Objectives, and Organization of the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

Amphibian decline has been recognized as a global issue since the meeting of the First World Congress of Herpetology in England in 1989. The rapidly growing literature on the status of amphibians and the causes of declines has been the subject of several reviews, including Collins and Storfer (2003), Linder and others (2003), and Semlitsch (2003). Two recent analyses suggest that the problem of amphibian declines may be accelerating (Stuart and others, 2004; Thomas and others, 2004). The increasing interest and demand for information to better understand the status and the underlying causes for declines and malformations prompted the U.S. Congress to fund the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) in 2000. ARMI is a national program coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the science and research bureau for the Department of the Interior (DOI). The goals of the program are to implement a plan to monitor trends in amphibian populations on DOI lands and to study the causes for declines, should they be detected. This program includes cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The USGS is uniquely qualified to develop and provide scientific leadership for such an effort. It has a long record of studies on amphibian life history, sampling techniques, toxicology, and health-related issues, and it has the responsibility for many natural-resources monitoring programs at regional, national, and continental scales.

The goal of ARMI is to better understand the dynamics of amphibian population trends, including causes of declines, so that DOI agencies and other land managers have the most accurate information from which to develop effective ways to manage and conserve amphibian populations. Specific objectives include:

  • Establish a network designed to monitor the status and changes in the distributions and abundance of amphibian species and communities in the U.S.
  • Identify environmental conditions known to affect amphibians and document their differences across the Nation.
  • Conduct research that identifies causes of amphibian population change and malformations.
  • Provide information to managers, policymakers, and the general public in support of amphibian conservation.

To take advantage of regional knowledge and expertise, the U.S. has been divided into seven blocks of States that are the focus of regional herpetological investigations (fig. 1). The monitoring program is coordinated in each region by USGS herpetologists who collaborate with USGS hydrologists. ARMI-sponsored research is conducted by USGS scientists nationally. Data are managed jointly by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Western Ecological Research Center. A Web site, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) resources, an interactive Web-based mapping tool, and other remote-sensing resources are overseen by the National Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Data Center. Oversight is provided by a steering committee, with members from within the USGS and from a number of major government environmental agencies and nongovernment organizations.

Table of Contents


Executive Summary

History, Objectives, and Organization of the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

Concepts and Design of Amphibian Monitoring

A Hierarchical Framework

Monitoring at the Mid-Level of the Pyramid

Objectives for Mid-Level Monitoring

The Occupancy Approach

Estimating Site Occupancy

Field Implementation

Monitoring at the Base of the Pyramid

The Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative National Atlas for Amphibian Distributions

North American Amphibian Monitoring Program

Frogwatch USA

North American Reporting Center for Amphibian Malformations

Implementation of Base-Level Monitoring

Monitoring at the Apex of the Pyramid

Research on Causes of Declines

Tier 1 Assessments

Tier 2 Assessments

Tier 3 Assessments

Methods and Protocol Development

Database Development

Analysis and Reporting

Partners and Leadership


References Cited


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