ZAGARESE Horacio Ernesto
First steps towards the conservation of the microendemic Patagonian frog Atelognathus nitoi
Año: 1999 p. 1 - 9
            Amphibians are sensitive bioindicators of environment health because of their permeable skins, biphasic life history, pattern of embryonic development, population biology, site fidelity, and the complexity of their interactions in communities and ecosystems (Wake & Morowitz, 1991; Blaustein et al., 1994). Many reports during the past decade have warned of the decline of amphibian populations around the world. Among the potential causes of the decline are the destruction and fragmentation of habitats, chemical pollution, increases in ground levels of solar ultraviolet radiation, and the introduction of exotic species (Wake & Morowitz, 1991; Blaustein & Wake, 1995).               The distribution of the frog genus Atelognathus is restricted to Patagonia. Atelognathus includes seven species, all of which are endemic to a certain degree. Six are distributed to the east of the Andes mountain range in the Argentine Patagonia (provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut) and one on Wellington Island, Chile (Frost, 1985; Duellman, 1993). Atelognathus nitoi (Barrio) is a medium‑sized (45 mm) leptodactylid frog, endemic to the area surrounding a small pond called Laguna Verde in the Nahuel Huapi National Reserve in north‑west Patagonia, Argentina. It has been recently discovered (Barrio, 1973) and has received little study (Christie, 1984; Basso & Úbeda, 1997). Its basic biology is as yet unknown. Its status categories are summarized in Table 1.               Although Laguna Verde is part of a national reserve with a long tradition in conservation, the habitat is potentially threatened by a number of anthropogenic and natural factors including fires, increased levels of ultraviolet radiation,  recreatinal activities, fuelwood gathering by a nearby mountain lodge, etc. In fact, the whole area was in danger of destruction from the intense fires that occurred in January 1996, which affected a large part of the nearby forest.               The aim of this study was to obtain basic knowledge of the biology and habitat of the species, which would be useful for selecting management measures to ensure its conservation. Our ultimate purpose is to help develop policies to protect the natural habitat of the species. To this end, our aims were to:   -Characterise the terrestrial and aquatic habitats and microhabitats of the adult and larval stages. -Gather basic information on the biology of the species, such as reproductive period, duration of the larval stage and timing of metamorphosis. -Identify potential conflicts or impacts of human activities occurring in the area and assess their significance for the species.