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  • Christian Wolff

Anuran communities in cocoa- agroforest landscapes

Understading changes in the anuran community structure along a gradient of land use intensification in cocoa-agroforestry landscapes

Amphibians are the most endangered group of animals on earth. The main causes of population decline and species extinction are habitat loss due to deforestation, fragmentation and climate change.

Within the Neotropics, Brazil has the most described amphibian species with more than 1100 species. Of these, 625 amphibian species occur in the Mata Atlântica, of which around 70 % to 90 % are endemic to this biome. However, the total number of species is much higher, as new species are constantly being discovered.

Amphibians are an important part of the food chain of many tropical ecosystems due to their large number of species and the high number of individuals, both as predators of insects, for example, and as prey, especially for snakes. Due to their importance in the tropical food web, amphibian populations are of particular importance for ecosystem functions. Especially in landscapes already used by humans, such as the cabruca agroforestry system, where the income of the local population depends on the yields of the agroforestry systems. Due to their use, cabrucas have a particularly high diversity of amphibian species, as both specialists, species that are dependent on forest habitats, and generalists, species that can survive in a wide range of habitats, can survive here. However, due to their semi-aquatic habits, amphibians are very sensitive to environmental changes and are therefore good bioindicators of habitat degradation.

Currently, there are still gaps in knowledge about the occurrence of amphibian species and the structure of species communities in the cabruca agroforestry system. This research is part of a PhD thesis as part of the EAI project. In particular, the habitat use of amphibians along the land use gradient of the EAI plots will be investigated. The structuring of the species community is determined and related to the influence of abiotic factors such as temperature, precipitation and humidity. The start and end of the breeding season is recorded using automated acoustic recordings and also correlated with abiotic factors.

The first field work of the project will take place in March 2024. The amphibian species will be recorded on 36 study plots of the EAI project along the utilization gradient of the cabruca-dominated landscape. The permanent study plots are located in old forest fragments, secondary forest, traditional cabruca (with high diversity), intensively managed cabruca (with low diversity) and open areas. In addition, a total of 16 abiotic factors are measured. The work takes place during the main activity time of the amphibians and starts at dusk.

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