Southern Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma darwinii)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 202525666
Integrating research, education, and action to save Darwin’s frogs and forest amphibians in Chile
The Chilean native forests comprise one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots on our planet, i.e. areas characterized by exceptionally high levels of both endemism and habitat loss. Over half of this hotspot is represented by the austral temperate forest; we will focus this project on this imperiled ecosystem, specifically in the La Araucanía, Los Ríos, and Los Lagos administrative regions in Chile. The main threat to Darwin’s frogs and sympatric forest amphibians in this ecosystem is habitat loss and degradation. In Chile, the Native Forest law (N° 20.283) protects native forests. However, this law was only promulgated in 2008, by which time a large area of the austral temperate forest was already lost or severely degraded, and governmental incentives for reforestation and sustainable management of the remaining native forests are poor and inefficiently used. Additionally, forest degradation due to illegal logging and livestock grazing is still a common practice in our study area.
This project is focused on an amphibian species with a unique reproductive strategy. The southern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) is the only known amphibian where the male breeds its developing offspring during the whole larval period inside its vocal sac. The Rhinodermatidae is the oldest family in the Hyloidea clade, a group that comprises 54% of extant anuran species of the world. The southern Darwin's frog has been recently proposed as a flagship species for the conservation of the austral temperate forest. Unfortunately, this species is categorized as Endangered. The main threats to this species, as with many amphibians around the world, are habitat loss and degradation and an emerging infectious disease known as amphibian chytridiomycosis. The Southern Darwin's frogs share the same habitat with many other threatened and endemic amphibians, such as Insuetophrynus acarpicus (Endangered), Eupsophus migueli (Endangered), and Alsodes valdiviensis (Endangered). Our project is also focused to protect and monitor these amphibian species and the forest. The austral temperate forest provides key ecosystem services, such as provisioning services (e.g., water, food, timber), regulating services (e.g., carbon sequestration), and cultural services (e.g., cutural value, tourism, and spiritual value [particularly for the Mapuche people]).
Our goal is to increase the protection of Darwin's frogs and sympatric forest amphibians through evidence-based conservation and public engagement. To this end, we will use an interdisciplinary project that integrates ecological and social research, education and outreach, and active management through voluntary conservation agreements with private landowners. This is a long-term project intended to have a positive long-lasting impact on the conservation of our target species and their habitat, the austral temperate forest of Chile.
Project 202525666 location - Chile, South America