Two new mothers come together to protect amphibians in Brazil’s unique Espinhaço Mountains
Crossodactylodes peers out from its bromeliad home. Image © Daniela Barcelos.
The highest reaches of Brazil’s Espinhaço mountains are home to an entirely unique ecosystem. More than a quarter of the amphibians who live in these alpine peaks can be found nowhere else on earth. When our partner Instituto Biotrópicos kickstarted their Amphibian Programme, they chose to focus on Crossodactylodes: a group of tiny, bromeliad-dwelling frogs.
Project leader Izabela Barata is an expert on the genus. When she took maternity leave earlier this year, the flexibility of our funding enabled her to hire a fire management expert, Elisa Paschoal, to study the impacts of fire on the bromeliad frogs’ native landscape. Elisa also happened to be a new mother, with this being her first role following her own maternity leave. Her research revealed that major fires caused by arson were a serious threat to the species. However, she also found that careful, proscribed burns could protect the ecosystem by reducing the ferocity of fires caused by arson.
Now, Izabela and Elisa are working with local people to learn how they view their relationships with the environment, and how they use and understand fire. Elisa’s findings proved that proscribed burns could help to protect bromeliad frogs and their extraordinary ecosystem. With the support of local communities and Indigenous Peoples, Instituto Biotrópicos will be able to translate her research into conservation action.
This year, Izabela and Elisa also trained two park rangers in amphibian monitoring, and established two monitoring programmes in the mountain range. These new programmes will help Instituto Biotrópicos gather in-depth knowledge of where the frogs live and how they relate to the broader ecosystem. That knowledge can then inform management guides for the conservation area, to ensure bromeliad frogs survive and thrive.
Izabela looks for frogs in Espinhaço’s high-altitude bromeliads. Image: © Michel Becheleni.