A rapid survival assessment of metropolitan populations of the new leopard frog species, Rana (Lithobates) kauffeldi, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy
Here, we present results from an investigation into the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on populations of a newly documented frog species in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Tri-State area. The storm struck less than a year after the species was first identified, presenting immediate cause for concern. At the time of this study, in 2013, approximately three-quarters of all known Tri-State area populations occurred in coastal lowland habitats within the tidal surge floodplain of the storm. This situation highlighted a number of important issues including the lethal general impacts of saline intrusion on amphibians, the potential for outright destruction of sites, a still-tenuous understanding of the species at the time, and the potential for impacts to a majority of known regional populations. Thus, we conducted a rapid survival assessment at several of the most at-risk regional populations - all of which occurred at sites in the lower Hudson River watershed. In addition to assessing the general survival of these populations, we also compared breeding chorus levels at those where both pre-and-post storm data were available to examine specific impacts. Further, we measured water quality attributes at each site and compared those results to baseline (pre-storm) data where available.
We confirmed survival of all known populations, documented several new areas of habitation, and noted potential increases in some populations. However, we also failed to detect two previously documented subpopulations, noted two apparent population declines, and identified several populations that may be dangerously small. We also documented the persistence of several other amphibian and reptile species at some sites. Our results suggest that the new species and other herpetofaunal species can persist in the face of occasional impacts from large-scale coastal flooding events, but the sites we examined may not have been impacted as severely as wetlands located directly along the Atlantic Ocean.