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Catadupa Key Biodiversity Area


The Catadupa Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) was delineated to protect species threatened with extinction.  One important group of animals which triggered the designation was Jamaica's endemic frogs:   Catadupa is important both in providing habitat and maintaining a corridor which connects frog populations from central through western Jamaica for a minimum of 10 of the island's 21 endemic frog species.

The KBA designation was supported in large part due to field surveys conducted in 1961, 1967, 1969, and 1970 (Schwartz and Fowler 1973).

We know, of course, that a lot can happen in more than four decades - habitat can be obliterated, species can go extinct . . . or forest can mature and improve when destructive human activities cease.

So in 2013-2014, with the support of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Windsor Research Centre conducted new field surveys to assess the current distribution and health of frog populations in the Catadupa KBA.

Study sites were established to survey the gradient of habitats (e.g., closed broadleaf forest found inside Forest Reserves, disturbed broadleaf forest both inside and outside Forest Reserves, areas of regenerating forest following abandonment of agriculture or small community settlements, etc.).   We also were cognizant that the current structure of the forests was heavily influenced by the historic construction and operation of the railway which connected Montego Bay to Kingston via Ipswich in southern Catadupa:   extraction of large, hardwood tree species for sleeper ties had an enormous effect on tree species composition and forest physiognomy, particularly in the south, but we weren't sure to what extent that legacy might affect different frog species. Additionally, we made sure the sampling points spanned the rainfall gradient of Catadupa since rain, humidity, and patterns of drought cycles can affect frogs.   And trust us, it ALWAYS rains in Niagara in central Catadupa!


Two methods were used to determine species presence, distributions, and health:

1. Passive Acoustic "Frog Loggers" - programmable electronic data loggers, which recorded all audible sounds detected by a microphone.  Because each frog species has a unique call, once one builds-up a library of calls, it's possible to identify species by looking at sonograms and describe the acoustic characteristics of their calls.  By analyzing the recordings for a standardized period of time (in our case, we started 15 minutes after sunset and analyzed the first 180 minutes of the night), we could also quantify calling rates.   This allowed us to develop "health & vigor" indices for each species:   it takes a lot of energy for male frogs to advertize and compete with other males to attract females, so the presence of vigorously-calling males may be one indicator of a higher quality, healthier environment.

"Frog Loggers"
Wildlife Acoustics'
Song Meter SM2+ with SMX-II
weatherproof acoustic microphone
Jamaican Earspot Frog
(Eleutherodactylus fuscus)
Jamaican Forest Frog
(Eleutherodactylus gossei)

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2. Active Sampling for "Chytrid" - many frog species around the World are threatened with extinction by an infectious fungus which causes Chytridiomycosis ("chytrid" for short). Holmes et al. 2012 confirmed that chytrid occurs in Jamaican frog communities to the east and to the west of the Catadupa KBA, so we wanted to address this knowledge gap for this important KBA corridor.

Frogs were captured by hand in the general areas where "frog loggers" were located and rubbed them with a cotton swab to collect any fungal spores which were present on their skin. These swabs were analyzed by Dr. Robert Fleisher's laboratory at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (Washington DC) so we could determine the prevalence (the percentage of infected individuals) and the level of infection (the number of zoospores per individual).   All captured frogs were released in the area where they were captured - we wanted to make sure they could return to their homes safely and we didn't want to accidentally spread chytrid elsewhere. This sampling also allowed us to identify any species which might not have called (or called loudly enough) when we deployed the acoustic "frog loggers".



FOR "A Day in the Life of Frog Research . . . and Other T'ings Jamaican", see CHRIS WARD'S BLOG.
Viewer Alert: Chris lived in a rural community, where killing farm animals to eat is a normal part of life. This isn't "pork chops with a sprig of parsley presented nicely on styrofoam, in plastic wrap"; some photos are graphic.

Hedges, S.B. 2015 Caribherp: Amphibians and reptiles of Caribbean Islands. www.caribherp.org on-line database. Date accessed: 1st December 2015.

Holmes, I., K. McLaren, and B. Wilson. 2012. Surveys for frog diversity and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Jamaica. Herpetological Review 43: 278-282.

Holmes, I., K. McLaren, and B.S. Wilson. 2014. Precipitation constrains amphibian chytrid fungus infection rates in a terrestrial frog assemblage in Jamaica, West Indies. Biotropica 46: 219-228.

Schwartz, A. and D.C. Fowler. 1973. The Anura of Jamaica:   A Progress Report. Study of the Fauna of Curacao and Other Caribbean Islands: No. 142, pp 50-142. http://www.repository.naturalis.nl/document/549921

Schwartz, A. and R. W. Henderson. 1991. Amphibians and reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, distributions, and natural history. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida.

Ward, C. 2014. Industry threatening to eliminate endemic Jamaican frogs. FrogLog (Issue no. 109) vol. 22: 48-49.