Xishuangbanna is a hotspot of frog diversity within China. However, two-thirds of the native tropical rainforests here have been converted to rubber plantation agriculture. Although many studies have found frog species in tropical plantations during terrestrial habitat surveys including rubber plantations in Brazil, it is necessary to consider both terrestrial and aquatic habitat to gain an accurate assessment of habitat use.
Researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) conducted surveys and experiments to quantify habitat use for breeding and non-breeding life history activities of the native frog species in rainforest, rubber plantation and other human impacted sites. The aim of their study was to determine whether native frog species use rubber plantations in Xishuangbanna as habitat.
The researchers conducted their surveys and experiments during the rainy seasons of 2008, 2009 and 2010 at XTBG (101o15'9.7″ E, 21o55'44.63″ N). They explicitly considered both breeding (aquatic) and non-breeding (terrestrial) habitat use at the species level to understand the species’ habitat preferences within that modified landscape. They conducted surveys of species’ breeding and non-breeding habitat use; identified environmental variables related to breeding habitat selection; and assessed the quality of breeding habitat provided by rubber plantations.
By integrating results from breeding and non-breeding habitat surveys, the study showed that the frog species in Xishuangbanna had distinct habitat preferences. One group indicated a preference for only rainforest habitat for both breeding and non-breeding activities according to their surveys. The conversion of rainforest to rubber plantations represented a complete loss of habitat for those species. In addition, no species completed their life cycle solely in the rubber plantation because no species bred there during the study period (2008-2010).
The researchers thus suggested that remnant forest patches must be preserved and primary forest restored, in order to conserve the unique frog community in Xishuangbanna.