Wagner, N., S. Lötters, L. Dalbeck, H. Düssel, M. Guschal, K. Kirst, D. Ohlhoff, J. Wegge, T. Reinhardt & M. Veith

In Issues 2020

Long-term monitoring of European fire salamander populations (Salamandra salamandra) in the Eifel Mountains (Germany): five years of removal sampling of larvae. pp. 243-253 plus Supplementary documents.

Abstract. The presence of the parasitic amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) in the Eifel Mountains, Germany, was confirmed in 2015. Since then, monitoring of selected populations of the European fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) has been established. This species is highly sensitive to the pathogen and infection is commonly lethal for individuals within several days, which gave rise to the term ‘salamander plague’. Because of the low detection probability of the terrestrial phase of the salamanders, we assessed the status of populations by monitoring the abundance of aquatic larvae as a proxy. A standardized removal sampling was conducted between 2015 and 2019 in 40 creeks in the Northern Eifel Mountains (21 sites with consistent 5-year data) and in 21 creeks in the Southern Eifel Mountains (17 sites with consistent 5-year data). While in the northern Eifel the pathogen was detected in 2015 and is known to be present since 2004, in the southern Eifel Bsal-sites has been confirmed since 2017. In both regions, the number of pools was the best fitting explanatory variable for abundances and detection probabilities of larvae. Indications for larval decline were observed in some creeks with Bsal presence while in others capture rates and larval abundances did not significantly change or sometimes even increased when Bsal was present. As a result, our data do not indicate an effect of the salamander plague to consistently and immediately causing declines in larval abundance. However, these findings remain tentative, and final conclusions should not be drawn yet. The applied removal sampling method is suggested to represent a time- and cost-effective as well as feasible means to obtain long-term population information on larval abundance in the European fire salamander.

Key words. Amphibia, Caudata, Bsal, chytridiomycosis, ecological modelling, larvae monitoring, population trends, salamander plague.

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