Amphibian refugia in the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa

Mapping endemism of amphibians within Eastern African biodiversity hotspot, study calls for consolidation of protected areas

Data resources used via GBIF : 30,000 species occurrences
Arthroleptis stenodactylus
Common Squeaker (Arthroleptis stenodactylus) by designedforx via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Africa is home to more than a quarter of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, yet knowledge and understanding of the factors leading to such biological richness, key to prioritizing conservation efforts, is still mostly lacking.

Working with molecular data combined with spatial occurrence data from GBIF.org, researchers studied the entire amphibian assemblage in a focus area containing parts of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa hotspot and the Eastern Afromontane region. Deriving a phylogeny of the assemblage and modelling the distribution of each species, the authors created a map of phylogenetic endemism from which they identified environmental correlates to predict potential refugia.

The study confirmed known centres of amphibian endemism, but also identified new potential refugia. In total, conservation analyses showed ten hotpots accounting for more than 25 per cent of phylogenetic endemism in the region. As only a very small fraction of these overlapped with areas currently protected, the study highlights a need to consolidate protection within centres of endemism.

Link to original article

Barratt CD, Bwong BA, Onstein RE, Rosauer DF, Menegon M, Doggart N, Nagel P, Kissling WD and Loader SP (2017) Environmental correlates of phylogenetic endemism in amphibians and the conservation of refugia in the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa. Diversity and Distributions. Wiley 23(8): 875–887. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12582.