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Rising Seas and the Coquí Frog of Puerto Rico

This species of Coquí llanero is endemic to a single marsh habitat that faces mounting pressure from changing land use, land cover, and nearby sea levels.

Known for its emblematic "ko-kee" call, coquí frogs are cherished throughout their native Puerto Rico. One of these species, Eleutherodactylus juanarivero, is only found in a small marsh near the island's northern coast. This is the remnant population of what was once a widely distributed marsh specialist whose habitat has been decimated by changes to land use and land cover following the island's Spanish settlements in the 16th century. Today, urban development and water contamination from nearby landfills threaten the wipe out the wetland habitat of Ejuanariveroi. As a result, the IUCN has designated this species as critically endangered.

This presentation by Daniel Dávila Casanova of the University of Puerto Rico also factors in the threat posed by rising sea levels. Using a model for predicting the sea level's impact on marshes, Dávila shows how projected sea-level rises, coupled with changes in land use and land cover, will spell the gradual demise of this frog's only home. Dávila presented these and other findings at Biodiversity Without Boundaries 2014:

  • Aerial photography from 1971 and 2010 shows gradual but persistent urbanization in the lands surrounding the habitat.
  • The position of wetlands relative to the sea surface will remain constant only if the combined effects of land subsidence and sea-level rise are balanced by elevation gain from wetland soil formation.
  • The Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model simulates the dominant processes involved in the conversion of wetlands and coasts, as well as the long-term changes caused by sea-level rise. This model was used to gauge the impact on the habitat of E. juanariveroi if the sea level rises 1 meter, 1.5 meters and 2 meters by the year 2100. 
  • Recommendations for the conservation of E. juanariveroi include the translocation of a viable breeding population or captive breeding. Since the Sea Level Rise Affecting Marshes Model suggests a gradual change, the conservative captive breeding strategy may be the more viable approach.

For more information, contact Dávila at coquidanny@gmail.com


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Conservation Topic

Imperiled Species
Climate Change