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Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate class on Earth. They play important roles in ecosystems and are often cited as sentinels of environmental health. Around 84% of the 8208 amphibian species have been assessed by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with 41% categorised as threatened with extinction. As is the case with other species, the main threatening process for many amphibians is habitat destruction, disturbance and fragmentation. However, amphibians are also highly vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases, climate change, invasive species and pollution. These threats often interact, resulting in complex impacts on amphibian populations. Fortunately, there are several initiatives (IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) and the Amphibian Ark(AArk)) focused on understanding and protecting the many threatened species through global coordination, conservation planning, habitat protection, supporting conservation action, fundraising, emergency rescues and captive breeding for conservation. Diverse amphibian lifestyles, coupled with the complexity of threats, means that different species will respond in different ways and in different places. Consequently there are likely to be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in a changing world, rather than complete extinction of a class. Amphibian conservation therefore remains one of the greatest challenges of our times.
Darwin's frogs Rhinoderma darwinii and Rhinoderma rufum are the only known species of amphibians in which males brood their offspring in their vocal sacs. We propose these frogs as flagship species for the conservation of the Austral temperate forests of Chile and Argentina. This recommendation forms part of the vision of the Binational Conservation Strategy for Darwin's Frogs, which was launched in 2018. The strategy is a conservation initiative led by the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, which in 2017 convened 30 governmental, non-profit and private organizations from Chile, Argentina and elsewhere. Darwin's frogs are iconic examples of the global amphibian conservation crisis: R. rufum is categorized as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) on the IUCN Red List, and R. darwinii as Endangered. Here we articulate the conservation planning process that led to the development of the conservation strategy for these species and present its main findings and recommendations. Using an evidence-based approach, the Binational Conservation Strategy for Darwin's Frogs contains a comprehensive status review of Rhinoderma spp., including critical threat analyses, and proposes 39 prioritized conservation actions. Its goal is that by 2028, key information gaps on Rhinoderma spp. will be filled, the main threats to these species will be reduced, and financial, legal and societal support will have been achieved. The strategy is a multi-disciplinary, transnational endeavour aimed at ensuring the long-term viability of these unique frogs and their particular habitat.
Assessments of extinction risk are required to inform conservation action, but the usefulness of assessments is undermined if they are not current. Ameerega planipaleae, a poison frog endemic to the cloud forests of central Peru, was last assessed in 2004. We therefore sought to provide updated data to inform the reassessment of this species. Based on our findings, we recommend that this frog remain categorized as Critically Endangered, but under modified criteria, and that conservation actions are taken to reduce the pressures of local threats, especially the overuse of agrochemicals.
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