Climate change is linked to long-term decline in a stream salamander

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Amphibian declines have been documented worldwide and several have been linked to climate change, but the long-term data needed to detect declines are largely restricted to pond-breeding species. This limits our knowledge of population trends in other major groups of amphibians, including stream salamanders, which have their greatest diversity in North America. I hypothesized that increasing air temperature and precipitation in northeastern North America caused abundance of the stream salamander Gyrinophilus porphyriticus in a New Hampshire population to decline between 1999 and 2010. I found a significant decline in abundance of G. porphyriticus adults over this 12-year period, and no trend in larval abundance. Adult abundance was negatively related to annual precipitation, which is predicted to increase further in the Northeast due to climate change. Analysis of a 6-year capture-mark-recapture data set for the same population showed no temporal variation in larval and adult detectability, validating the abundance data, and no variation in larval and adult survival. However, survival during metamorphosis from the larval to adult stage declined dramatically. These results suggest that increasing precipitation is causing a decline in adult recruitment, which, if it persists, will lead to local extinction. A likely mechanism for the decline in adult recruitment is mortality of metamorphosing individuals during spring and fall floods, which have increased in volume and frequency with the increase in precipitation. More broadly, this study presents strong evidence that the amphibian decline crisis extends to North America's stream salamanders, and shows the critical need to collect population data on these species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-53
Number of pages6
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Amphibian decline
  • Climate change
  • Demography
  • Headwater stream
  • Metamorphosis
  • Salamander


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