Impacts of Reducing Environmental Water Availability on Frogs. A Case Study from Murree, Pakistan

Muhammad Jawad Jilani

This study will investigate the scale of reducing water in streams and their impact on frog populations and their responses to fluctuating environmental flows and water availability. Further we aim to find out the reasons of low water availability in streams of Murree, Pakistan. We will evaluate the link between water extraction and variability in precipitation to future environmental flows of streams and the likely impacts on indigenous frog populations. Increased understanding of frog responses to reducing water flows in streams will be beneficial for wide-scale conservation efforts for ecosystems suffering altered stream flows due to climate change and water extraction. The applied aim of the study is to provide recommendations on how to manage stream ecosystems in a way that can sustain frog communities.

Growing human populations are increasing demand for fresh water, while increasing effects of climate change is reducing water availability or increasing variability. These changes are particularly acute in developing countries like Pakistan where the population is expected to cross 300 million thresholds by the year 2050 and water is often extracted at a local scale. At the same time, climate change is expected to bring increased annual variability in rainfall, increasing peak flows in streams, but reducing the length of time that streams flow. These changes in availability and demand for water are likely to impact amphibians, which depend on adequate stream flow at the right time of year to reproduce.

The study area features a subtropical highland climate with dense pine forests and a small network of permanent and seasonal streams active during the rainy season. It also includes a nature reserve which contains protected areas of Murree Biodiversity Park and part of Murree-Kotli Sattian-Kahuta National Park, Punjab, Pakistan. The streams are the source of water for household use and agricultural practices in the area. Water extraction from streams is in practice and leading to reduced stream flows in the area which could affect stream dependent biodiversity (frogs). A survey from the study site previously found that around 80 % of the population in Murree depends on springs and stream water for domestic use. Insufficient knowledge about frog population responses to variable water availability caused by changing climate and water extraction in Pakistan requires immediate attention to understand their population statuses and threat level.

In this project we will use field surveys to determine the relationship between stream flow and frog success, then relate those risks to the expected change in water availability over the coming years in the Murree region of Pakistan.

The collaboration and exchange of knowledge between Australia and Pakistan will garner positive conservation results. Our results will be transformed into local action plans, and workshops and seminars will be conducted to raise awareness among local communities. The local communities will be engaged actively by conducting training for young Pakistani university students and volunteers. This project will be achieved through an established collaboration between Deakin University, Australia and PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Pakistan. Our study is particularly important now because amphibians are one of the most threatened taxonomic groups globally, but there is still time to act to design frog-friendly development.

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