The recent decline of a New Zealand endemic: how and why did populations of Archey's frog Leiopelma archeyi crash over 1996–2001?
Bell, BD and Carver, SS and Mitchell, NJ and Pledger, S, The recent decline of a New Zealand endemic: how and why did populations of Archey's frog Leiopelma archeyi crash over 1996-2001?, Biological Conservation, 120, (2) pp. 189-199. ISSN 0006-3207 (2004) [Refereed Article]
Dramatic changes have been documented in New Zealand’s vertebrate faunas since human settlement, involving major declines
and extinctions, but over recent years few species have declined in numbers so rapidly as the terrestrial Archey’s frog Leiopelma
archeyi (Anura: Leiopelmatidae). Long-term monitoring over more than 20 years revealed a major population reduction of the
species over 1996–2001 and L. archeyi is now classified as Nationally Critical under the New Zealand threat classification system.
The decline progressed northwards in the Coromandel ranges, and mostly larger (female) frogs survived. On a 100 m2 study plot at
Tapu Ridge, annual population estimates averaged 433 frogs (SE 32) over 1984–1994, declining by 88% to average 53 frogs (SE
8) over 1996–2002. A mean annual survival rate of 82% for most years declined to 33% over 1994–1997. There is mounting evidence
to suggest that disease is the major agent of decline, supported by (1) the rapidity and severity of decline, (2) the progressive
(south to north) nature of decline, and (3) finding frogs with chytriodiomycosis from Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis at the time of
decline. Surprisingly, sympatric populations of the semi-aquatic Leiopelma hochstetteri have not declined dramatically, nor has a
western population of L. archeyi at Whareorino, despite chytridiomycosis occurring in some frogs there. Sustaining and restoring
populations of L. archeyi in New Zealand raises major challenges for conservation management.