Abstract

Science-based management strategies are needed to halt or reverse the global decline of amphibians. In many cases, sound management requires reliable models built using monitoring data. Historically, monitoring and statistical modeling efforts have focused on estimating occupancy using detection–nondetection data. Spatial occupancy models are useful for studying colonization–extinction dynamics, but richer insights can be gained from estimating abundance and density-dependent demographic rates. We developed an integrated abundance-based metapopulation model of the processes contributing to spatiotemporal variation in patch population density. We fit our model to a combination of detection–nondetection and count data from a 14-yr study of a reintroduced metapopulation of federally threatened Chiricahua Leopard Frogs (Lithobates chiricahuensis). Pond-specific population growth rate was influenced by pond hydroperiod and frog density, such that permanent and semipermanent ponds with low densities of adult frogs experienced the highest annual population growth rates. Immigration rate declined as the distance among ponds increased. After reintroduction in 2003, metapopulation-level abundance increased and appeared to stabilize around 1300 adult frogs (95% CI = 1192–1471) by year 2015. Further, changes in metapopulation abundance were driven mostly by changes in abundance at a few ponds. These high-density populations, which would not have been identifiable with traditional occupancy-based metapopulation models, are likely especially important for species recovery in the area. Abundance-based metapopulation models can be widely applied to inform conservation efforts, by providing higher quality information needed to prioritize habitat patches for management and can be used to make more accurate predictions of metapopulation extinction risk.

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