Conservation of threatened species on the Somuncura Plateau (Patagonia, Argentina): Implications for land management and engagement of the local community
The Somuncura Plateau is a priority conservation area given its unique biology, geology and anthropology. This area is home to three species that are internationally recognized as high conservation priorities: the Somuncura frog (Pleurodema somuncurensis), the Laguna Raimunda frog (Atelognathus reverberii) and the naked characin (Gymnocharacinus bergii). The objective of this project was to improve conservation of these three endemic and threatened species. The project included research efforts as well as education as a component of conservation.
Within the research framework, investigators were able to enhance knowledge of the distribution of two of the species, identifying both frogs in previously unrecorded locations. They were also able to develop the first estimates of patch occupancy rate, detection rate, and minimum abundance for the Somuncura frog and the naked characin. Although patch occupancy rates were high for the Somuncura frog, the study confirmed that the species is absent in one of the four branches of Valcheta Stream that comprise the entire distribution of the species. For the Laguna Raimunda frog, detection rates and abundance estimates were very low and the local extinction of one subpopulation was confirmed. During the study, two new invasive species were also discovered: wild boar (Sus scrofa) and Uruguay tetra (Cheirodon interruptus). Their presence represents a clear threat to the Somuncura frog and naked characin.
The project also included activities aimed at fostering a conservation ethic relative to the study species and their habitat. Various workshops were conducted at local schools and at La Plata Museum, and educational print, video and web materials were developed. In addition, the team is constructing a permanent display at La Plata Museum. Finally, based on previous data and new information collected during this study, a preliminary conservation and management plan documents for these species have been drafted and presented to government agencies for their discussion and implementation. Although there is still much work to be done, this project provided the first steps towards ensuring effective conservation of these three species and their habitat. ($5,760)