OOS 9-5 - Shifted baselines and forensic taxonomy in amphibians

Tuesday, August 9, 2016: 9:20 AM
Grand Floridian Blrm G, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center


Joseph Mendelson III, Zoo Atlanta


Based on 25 years of field work at various times and localities across the spatiotemporal spread of amphibian chytridiomycosis in the Neotropics has allowed a first-hand perspective on the status of amphibian communities there.  The central question that arises is how shall we interpret and consider results of biodiversity inventories or ecological studies that are attempted in an arena so drastically altered by disease-induced declines and extinctions"


 Introducing the term "forensic taxonomy" I invoked the perverse reality of discovering and describing new species of amphibians that evidently exist today solely in museum collections. Afield, the reality of local and regional amphibian declines is such that ongoing biodiversity inventories are impeded by nagging negative evidence of local diversity. Field studies by my colleagues indicate significant local ecological effects of the recent decimation or removal of amphibians by disease, yet others may be invested heavily in field studies that do not take into account the recent upheaval of the local system caused by amphibian declines. We are all aware of the concept of shifted baselines in ecology, but how adept are we at incorporating the very recent shifts in amphibian biomass and diversity into our own research?