US Geological Survey


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Published in Ecosystems 8 (2005).


An increase in ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation has been posited to be a potential factor in the decline of some amphibian population. This hypothesis has received support from laboratory and field experiments showing that current levels of UV-B can cause embryo mortality in some species, but little research has addressed whether UV-B is influencing the distribution of amphibian populations. We compared patterns of amphibian presence to sitespecific estimates of UV-B dose at 683 ponds and lakes in Glacier, Olympic, and Sequoia–Kings Canyon National Parks. All three parks are located in western North America, a region with a concentration of documented amphibian declines. Sitespecific daily UV-B dose was estimated using modeled and field-collected data to incorporate the effects of elevation, landscape, and water-column dissolved organic carbon. Of the eight species we examined (Ambystoma gracile, Ambystoma macrodactylum, Bufo boreas, Pseudacris regilla, Rana cascadae, Rana leuteiventris, Rana muscosa, Taricha granulosa), two species (T. granulosa and A. macrodactylum) had quadratic relationships with UV-B that could have resulted from negative UV-B effects. Both species were most likely to occur at moderate UV-B levels. Ambystoma macrodactylum showed this pattern only in Glacier National Park. Occurrence of A. macrodactylum increased as UV-B increased in Olympic National Park despite UV-B levels similar to those recorded in Glacier. We also found marginal support for a negative association with UV-B for P. regilla in one of the two parks where it occurred. We did not find evidence of a negative UV-B effect for any other species. Much more work is still needed to determine whether UV-B, either alone or in concert with other factors, is causing widespread population losses in amphibians.