Although widespread declines in anuran populations have attracted considerable concern, the stochastic demographics of these animals make it difficult to detect consistent trends against a background of spatial and temporal variation. To identify long-term trends, we need datasets gathered over long time periods, especially from tropical areas where anuran biodiversity is highest. We conducted road surveys of four anurans in the Australian wet–dry tropics on 4637 nights over a 16-year period. Our surveys spanned the arrival of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina), allowing us to assess the invader's impact on native anuran populations. Our counts demonstrate abrupt and asynchronous shifts in abundance and species composition from one year to the next, not clearly linked to rainfall patterns. Typically, periods of decline in numbers of a species were limited to 1–2 years and were followed by 1- to 2-year periods of increase. No taxa showed consistent declines over time, although trajectories for some species showed significant perturbations coincident with the arrival of toads. None of the four focal frog species was less common at the end of the study than at the beginning, and three of the species reached peak abundances after toad arrival. Survey counts of cane toads increased rapidly during the initial stage of invasion but have subsequently declined and fluctuated. Distinguishing consistent declines versus stochastic fluctuations in anuran populations requires extensive time-series analysis, coupled with an understanding of the shifts expected under local climatic conditions. This is especially pertinent when assessing impacts of specific perturbations such as invasive species.
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- amphibian populations
- invasion ecology
- time series
- tropical ecology