Distribution, habitat and vulnerability to climate change of the Endangered <em>Leptopelis xenodactylus</em>


Distribution, habitat and vulnerability to climate change of the Endangered Leptopelis xenodactylus

Published in: African Journal of Herpetology
Volume 73 , issue 1 , 2024 , pages: 13–27
DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2023.2279322
Author(s): Kirsty J. Kyle North-West University, South Africa , Louis H. Du Preez North-West University, South Africa , James Harvey 41 Devonshire Avenue, South Africa , Adrian J. Armstrong Centre for Functional Biodiversity, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Leptopelis xenodactylus is a little-known, Endangered species of frog that is thought to be endemic to the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. In an effort to determine the distribution of this species more accurately, a working species distribution model was created for use in searching for more populations over a period of three breeding seasons. Twenty-one more wetlands containing the frog were discovered and a second species distribution model was created for use in spatial planning applications. Leptopelis xenodactylus occurs primarily in temperate, alluvial hummock wetlands in U-shaped valleys at mid-altitudes in southwestern KwaZulu-Natal. The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy of L. xenodactylus were recalculated including the new records and have increased by 9% and 429%, respectively. The known localities for L. xenodactylus were analysed in relation to the predictions of two downscaled climate change models and a vulnerability framework. Climate change was found to be a potentially significant threat to L. xenodactylus according to the downscaled HadMC2 model and the vulnerability framework, potentially affecting up to 80.5% of the geographic range, but not according to the downscaled GFDL2.1 model and the vulnerability framework which indicated that up to 22% of the geographic range might be affected. The better understanding of the distribution and habitat of L. xenodactylus and of the potential combined impact of climate change and land transformation on the species gained through this study will assist in improving its conservation management.

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