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Owen, E., M. Zuliani, M. Goldgisser, and C. Lortie. 2024. The importance of native shrubs on the distribution and diversity of reptiles and amphibians in the central drylands of Southwestern USA. Biodiversity and Conservation 33: 2131–2151.

Conservation and management of drylands is a global challenge. Key attributes of these ecosystems, such as dominant vegetation including shrubs, can provide a crucial mechanism to inform conservation strategies. The shrub species Ephedra californica and Larrea tridentata are common native shrub species within the deserts of California and frequently benefit other plant and animal species. Here, we tested the hypothesis that shrubs support reptile and amphibian communities through relative increases in available habitat, estimated through increasing shrub densities at the site level. Reported occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and high-resolution satellite images were used to test for local-to-regional patterns in reptile and amphibian distribution and diversity by shrub densities at sites. At 43 distinct sites, the relationship between shrub density and reported reptile and amphibian communities was also tested. A total of 71 reptile and amphibian species were reported regionally. Increases in shrub density across sites positively influenced the relative abundance and richness of reptiles and amphibians observed. Moreover, increasing shrub density also had a positive influence on species evenness. Aridity differences between sites did not significantly influence the relationship between shrub density and reptiles and amphibians suggesting that the relationship was robust. This study highlights the importance of foundational shrub species in supporting reptile and amphibian communities in arid and semi-arid regions. Large-scale patterns of biodiversity in deserts can be supported by positive plant-animal interactions including small islands of fertility and resources for animals in the context of a warming climate.

Montana, K. O., V. Ramírez-Castañeda, and R. D. Tarvin. 2023. Are Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) Resistant to Tetrodotoxin (TTX)? Characterizing Potential TTX Exposure and Resistance in an Ecological Associate of Pacific Newts (Taricha). Journal of Herpetology 57.

Animals that frequently encounter toxins often develop mechanisms of toxin resistance over evolutionary time. Both predators that consume toxic prey and organisms in physical contact with a toxin in their environment may experience natural selection for resistance. Based on observations that Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) sometimes eat and mistakenly amplect tetrodotoxin (TTX)-defended Taricha newts, we predicted that P. regilla may possess TTX resistance. We compared amino acid sequences of domain IV of the muscle voltage-gated sodium channel gene SCN4A (NaV1.4) in populations of P. regilla that are sympatric and allopatric with Taricha. We identified a single substitution in NaV1.4 of P. regilla at a conserved site in the pore loop where TTX binds. Although the role of this site in TTX resistance has not been functionally assessed, both allopatric and sympatric P. regilla had this substitution, along with several other reptiles and amphibians, suggesting that it may be unrelated to TTX exposure from Taricha. Thus, there is no conclusive evidence that P. regilla possesses TTX resistance encoded by amino acid substitutions in this domain. California occurrence data from the last 50 yr indicate that Taricha activity peaks in January while the activity of P. regilla peaks in April, with times where the species may come into contact. However, P. regilla may not be exposed to levels of TTX from Taricha high enough to select for mutations in NaV1.4. Other unidentified mechanisms of TTX resistance could be present in P. regilla and other species sympatric with toxic newts.

Dauwalter, D. C., E. Miskow, and C. Crookshanks. 2023. Spatial Conservation Assessment for Native Fishes in the Lahontan and Central Nevada Basins, USA. Water 15: 1087.

Freshwater biodiversity is declining faster than terrestrial and marine biodiversity. The protection and restoration of aquatic habitats are based, in part, on stemming this decline. We conducted a spatial conservation assessment of native fishes in the Lahontan and central Nevada basins using core-area zonation. The complementarity-based assessment yielded a landscape value (rank) of all subwatersheds (12-digit hydrologic unit code; ~12,000 ha) whereby high-ranking subwatersheds, as a set, maximized the representation of all native species, subspecies, and the within-species ecological diversity of salmonids, while accounting for aquatic connectivity and risk of aquatic habitat degradation. The high-ranking subwatersheds encapsulated small patches of habitat inhabited by endemic desert fishes, as in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. They also highlighted clusters of high-value subwatersheds, such as in the Truckee River watershed that has extant populations of, and historical habitat for, Lahontan cutthroat trout in its headwaters, with species such as the mountain whitefish with migratory life histories, and endemic cui-ui, Chasmistes cujus, at Pyramid Lake—a terminal lake. Both the Truckee River headwaters and Pyramid Lake have been recipients of ongoing native fish conservation efforts. The landscape rankings will be used by the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership to inform regional conservation investments, and the rankings are available for broader use by resource agencies working on native fish conservation at landscape scales.

Inman, R. D., T. C. Esque, and K. E. Nussear. 2022. Dispersal limitations increase vulnerability under climate change for reptiles and amphibians in the southwestern United States. The Journal of Wildlife Management.

Species conservation plans frequently rely on information that spans political and administrative boundaries, especially when predictions are needed of future habitat under climate change; however, most species conservation plans and their requisite predictions of future habitat are often limited in geographical scope. Moreover, dispersal constraints for species of concern are not often incorporated into distribution models, which can result in overly optimistic predictions of future habitat. We used a standard modeling approach across a suite of 23 taxa of amphibians and reptiles in the North American deserts (560,024 km2 across 13 ecoregions) to assess impacts of climate change on habitat and combined landscape population dispersal simulations with species distribution modeling to reduce the risk of predicting future habitat in areas that are not available to species given their dispersal abilities. We used 3 general circulation models and 2 representative concentration pathways (RCPs) to represent multiple scenarios of future habitat potential and assess which study species may be most vulnerable to changes forecasted under each climate scenario. Amphibians were the most vulnerable taxa, but the most vulnerable species tended to be those with the lowest dispersal ability rather than those with the most specialized niches. Under the most optimistic climate scenario considered (RCP 2.6; a stringent scenario requiring declining emissions from 2020 to near zero emissions by 2100), 76% of the study area may experience a loss of >20% of the species examined, while up to 87% of the species currently present may be lost in some areas under the most pessimistic climate scenario (RCP 8.5; a scenario wherein greenhouse gases continue to increase through 2100 based on trajectories from the mid‐century). Most areas with high losses were concentrated in the Arizona and New Mexico Plateau ecoregion, the Edwards Plateau in Texas, and the Southwestern Tablelands in New Mexico and Texas, USA. Under the most pessimistic climate scenario, all species are predicted to lose some existing habitat, with an average of 34% loss of extant habitat across all species. Even under the most optimistic scenario, we detected an average loss of 24% of extant habitat across all species, suggesting that changing climates may influence the ranges of reptiles and amphibians in the Southwest.

Lal, M. M., K. T. Brown, P. Chand, and T. D. Pickering. 2022. An assessment of the aquaculture potential of indigenous freshwater food fish of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga as alternatives to farming of tilapia. Reviews in Aquaculture.

An important driver behind introductions for aquaculture of alien fish species into Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) is a lack of knowledge about domestication suitability and specific culture requirements of indigenous taxa. Introductions may be appropriate in some circumstances, but in other circumstances, the associated risks may outweigh the benefits, so greater understanding of indigenous species' aquaculture potential is important. This review summarises literature for indigenous freshwater food fish species from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga, and evaluates their aquaculture potential for food security and/or small‐scale livelihoods. A species selection criteria incorporating economic, social, biological and environmental spheres was used to score 62 candidate species. Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus and O. niloticus) now established in PICTs were evaluated for comparison. Results show that 13 species belonging to the families Mugilidae (Mullets), Terapontidae (Grunters), Kuhliidae (Flagtails) and Scatophagidae (Scats) have the highest culture potential according to selection criteria. These feed at a relatively low trophic level (are herbivores/detritivores), have comparatively fast growth rates and overall possess characteristics most amenable for small‐scale, inland aquaculture. The four top‐ranked candidates are all mountain mullets Cestraeus spp., followed by Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Lower ranked candidates include three other mullets (Planiliza melinoptera, P. subviridis and Mugil cephalus) and rock flagtail Kuhlia rupestris. Importantly, many species remain data deficient in aspects of their reproductive biology or culture performance. Species profiles and ranked priority species by country are provided with logistical, technological and environmental assessments of country capacities to culture each species.

Yu, S.-E., S.-L. Dong, Z.-X. Zhang, Y.-Y. Zhang, G. Sarà, J. Wang, and Y.-W. Dong. 2022. Mapping the potential for offshore aquaculture of salmonids in the Yellow Sea. Marine Life Science & Technology 4: 329–342.

Mariculture has been one of the fastest-growing global food production sectors over the past three decades. With the congestion of space and deterioration of the environment in coastal regions, offshore aquaculture has gained increasing attention. Atlantic salmon ( Salmo salar ) and rainbow trout ( Oncorhynchus mykiss ) are two important aquaculture species and contribute to 6.1% of world aquaculture production of finfish. In the present study, we established species distribution models (SDMs) to identify the potential areas for offshore aquaculture of these two cold-water fish species considering the mesoscale spatio-temporal thermal heterogeneity of the Yellow Sea. The values of the area under the curve (AUC) and the true skill statistic (TSS) showed good model performance. The suitability index (SI), which was used in this study to quantitatively assess potential offshore aquaculture sites, was highly dynamic at the surface water layer. However, high SI values occurred throughout the year at deeper water layers. The potential aquaculture areas for S. salar and O. mykiss in the Yellow Sea were estimated as 52,270 ± 3275 (95% confidence interval, CI) and 146,831 ± 15,023 km 2 , respectively. Our results highlighted the use of SDMs in identifying potential aquaculture areas based on environmental variables. Considering the thermal heterogeneity of the environment, this study suggested that offshore aquaculture for Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout was feasible in the Yellow Sea by adopting new technologies (e.g., sinking cages into deep water) to avoid damage from high temperatures in summer.

Hanzen, C. C., M. C. Lucas, O. L. F. Weyl, S. M. Marr, G. O’Brien, and C. T. Downs. 2022. Slippery customers for conservation: Distribution and decline of anguillid eels in South Africa. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 32: 1277–1290.

Four anguillid eel species occur in the western Indian Ocean rivers of Africa: Anguilla bengalensis, Anguilla bicolor, Anguilla marmorata and Anguilla mossambica. These catadromous fishes face multiple stressors, including habitat alteration and deterioration, barriers to migration, pollution and the adverse impacts of alien species, but knowledge of eel species occurrence, abundance and ecology in Africa remains poor.This study investigated the present and historical distribution of anguillid eels and the potential associated drivers of declines at the southern extremities of their ranges in South Africa. Data analysed included sampling conducted in KwaZulu–Natal and Eastern Cape between 2015 and 2020, and secondary data extracted from databases, museums and local management agencies.The median extent of inland penetration increased as follows: 22 km for A. bicolor, 29 km for A. marmorata, 94 km for A. bengalensis and 293 km for A. mossambica. The median altitude followed a similar pattern.Extent of occurrence analyses were carried out at the regional level in KwaZulu–Natal. The sampling data on present distribution (2015–2020), compared with historical data, suggests declines in the extents of occurrence of the four eel species in KwaZulu–Natal, ranging between 31 and 48% in the last 30 years and between 35 and 82% since the 1950s.With increasing human threats in the region, especially from watercourse modification and water abstraction, further declines for these species are expected. Conservation measures recommended include the maintenance or restoration of the ecological connectivity of important rivers and the implementation of freshwater protected areas. Although eels are at present not widely exploited in South Africa, there is a need for fisheries regulations to manage sustainable commercial exploitation.

Maimela, L. T., C. T. Chimimba, and T. A. Zengeya. 2022. The legacy of over a century of introductions: Spread debt of rainbow trout ( Oncorhynchus mykiss ) in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. River Research and Applications.

For over a century, rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) has been widely introduced into lakes and rivers in South Africa to create and enhance sport‐fishing opportunities. Despite its long history of introduction, naturalized populations of rainbow trout are still localized to a few areas with suitable habitats and climate. This study assessed the spread debt (i.e., the increase in area invaded by invasive species over time) of rainbow trout in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa to highlight areas with known introductions, the extent of the invasion, and to identify areas that are suitable for establishment but are still invasion‐free. The total river length that was predicted as suitable for rainbow trout under current climate was about ca. 3,500 km in an extension of about ca. 15,000 km. Current occupancy (river length predicted as suitable with known rainbow trout occurrence records) was ca. 1,220 km (35%) and the invasion debt was therefore estimated as 65%. While these data infer a large invasion debt, they are confounded by a lack of knowledge on sampling effort and verified true absence and should therefore be recognized as an estimate. In addition, the extent of the suitable area varied under different climate change scenarios where it was projected to decrease under RCP 4.5 scenarios and increase under the RCP 8.5 scenarios. This study demonstrates some of the difficulties of quantifying the potential future extent and impacts of biological invasions and how the invasion debt concept can be applied to provide an important link between invasion biology, management, and policy.

Strona, G., P. S. A. Beck, M. Cabeza, S. Fattorini, F. Guilhaumon, F. Micheli, S. Montano, et al. 2021. Ecological dependencies make remote reef fish communities most vulnerable to coral loss. Nature Communications 12.

Ecosystems face both local hazards, such as over-exploitation, and global hazards, such as climate change. Since the impact of local hazards attenuates with distance from humans, local extinction risk should decrease with remoteness, making faraway areas safe havens for biodiversity. However, isolat…

Schickele, A., P. Guidetti, S. Giakoumi, A. Zenetos, P. Francour, and V. Raybaud. 2021. Improving predictions of invasive fish ranges combining functional and ecological traits with environmental suitability under climate change scenarios. Global Change Biology 27: 6086–6102.

Biological invasions represent one of the main threats to marine biodiversity. From a conservation perspective, especially in the context of increasing sea warming, it is critical to examine the suitability potential of geographical areas for the arrival of Range Expanding Introduced and Native Spec…