Abstract

Biological communities are experiencing rapid shifts of composition in Neotropical ecosystems due to several factors causing population declines. However, emerging evidence has provided insights on the adaptive potential of multiple species to respond to illnesses and environmental pressures. In Costa Rica, the decline of amphibian populations is a remarkable example of these changes. Here we provide evidence of variation in the amphibian richness of a premontane forest of San Ramón (Costa Rica) across a ~30 year period. We also quantified changes in the composition and abundance of the leaf-litter frog community occurring in the same premontane forest, by comparing diversity data with a difference of ~18 years. We evaluated the similarity of species richness from 1980s to 2010s based on several sources, and the dissimilarity of species diversity in the site comparing 28 standardized surveys from 1994-1995 and 2011-2012. We compared the relative abundance of some frogs that inhabit the leaf-litter layer between these same periods. Our results show that there is more similarity in amphibian richness between 1980s and 2010s (~ 52 %) than between 1980s and 1990s (~ 40 %). The richness of leaf-litter anurans was ~ 65 % similar between 1990s and 2010s. The diversity of leaf-litter anuran was clearly different between 1994-1995 and 2011-2012, and it was clustered among those periods. We determined that the amphibian community in this premontane forest drastically changed: many species have disappeared, or gradually declined through the decades (e.g. Pristimantis ridens, P. cruentus, Craugastor bransfordii) as in other well studied localities of Costa Rica, while some few species flourished after being almost absent from the site in the 1990s (e.g. Craugastor crassidigitus, Lithobates warszewistchii). Currently dominant species such as C. crassidigitus would be using developed resistance against Bd-fungus as an advantage (apparent competition) in the premontane forest where the disease is more virulent than in lowlands. Our analysis supports the hypothesis of individualized responses of anuran populations under distinct site and elevations. We suggest to continue monitoring the amphibian communities of premontane tropical forests to understand how this ecosystem gradually resist and adapts to this catastrophic time of biodiversity loss.

Keywords: Adaptative potential; Alberto Manuel Brenes Biological Reserve; apparent competition; Craugastor crassidigitus; host resistance; Lithobates warszewistchii.