SEH grants 2022

Philipp Böning & Amadeus Plewnia

Trier University, Trier, Germany

Towards an early warning system for Bsal in enigmatic and endemic Alpine salamanders

Among the multiple factors leading to global amphibian declines, the impact of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs), such as amphibian chytrid skin fungi, has been linked to declines and extinctions across a wide range of amphibian taxa. In western and central Europe, a new threat to the amphibian diversity arose in recent decades: the salamander fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, Bsal. Climatic conditions in Europe’s temperate and mountain regions are highly suitable for Bsal, suggesting that range and host expansions are expectable and conservation strategies will become necessary. For now, the Alpine salamander (Salamandra atra) is currently naïve to the pathogen, but posing a high risk to soon be affected by Bsal in Germany. In addition, the European Bsal Action Plan classifies three local endemics of the Southern Alps (Salamandra atra aurorae, S. a. pasubiensis, S. lanzai) with a high risk of complete extinction due to Bsal in the next ten years. To this date, no systematic monitoring exists in the few known populations of each taxon. We therefore are focusing on a first comprehensive Bsal-sampling in the Italian Alpine salamander populations, considering strict biosecurity standards. We will assess the pathogen presence or absence in six focal populations of our target taxa (two localities each: S. lanzai and S. a. aurorae; one locality each: S. a. pasubiensis and S. a. atra), covering most of the currently known ranges of the local endemic (sub)species. It is a first step towards a long-term monitoring approach – acting as an early warning system for Bsal – for Europe´s enigmatic alpine salamander taxa. With this, we intend to encourage local authorities and conservation organisations to (i) implement such a monitoring approach including further conservation actions (e.g. topic-specific public education work) and decisions (e.g. reviewing species specific status in National Red Lists) and (ii) design a National Bsal Action Plan to protect Europe’s enigmatic salamanders on a long term.

Enrico Lunghi

Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb, Croatia

Sette Fratelli cave salamander (Speleomantes sarrabusensis) monitoring

The Sette Fratelli cave salamander (Speleomantes sarrabusensis) is one of the five Sardinian species and is distributed in the south-eastern part of the island. This is the most recently described Speleomantes species and is one of the European herp species with the smallest distribution range (about 70 km2). The distribution of S. sarrabusensis mostly covers a granite area, therefore the likelihood to observe this species is much lower than for the other Speleomantes, which are easily observed into caves all year round. Consequently, the available information on this species is limited and mostly comes from a single population that can be easily observed within artificial springs. With this project supported by the Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH Conservation Grant in Herpetology for 2022) I aim to survey different populations of S. sarrabusensis in order to provide a more solid information on the species conservation status. I plan to monitor two large epigean populations of S. sarrabusensis and the known population from the artificial springs adopting the standardized monitoring method proposed for this species. The expected goal is to estimate the abundance of these populations and provide a better picture of the species conservation status. Furthermore, this data will represent the starting point for a future monitoring program aiming to assess the populations trend for this particularly endangered species.