Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Christy McCain

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


As the global human population grows exponentially, many harmful anthropogenic effects on the environment have become pressing concerns of global importance. Deforestation is one of the most visible of these effects. Strongly linked to species extirpations and loss of overall ecosystem function, deforestation is particularly detrimental to amphibian species, which rely on access to water. These vulnerable amphibians provide several ecosystem services. Therefore, curbing anthropogenic deforestation in forest regions is a conservation priority. Unfortunately, current protected areas over-represent regions of high elevation at the expense of lowlands. I synthesized 18 previously-published amphibian diversity surveys, deforestation data collected by Hansen et al. (2013), and the World Database of Protected Areas to examine 1) the relationship between deforestation and amphibian biodiversity across elevational gradients, 2) how effectively protected areas curb deforestation, and 3) the elevational trends in protected area placement and their relationships to amphibian biodiversity. Ten out of 18 surveys revealed a positive relationship between deforestation and amphibian species richness (p<0.05), and suggest that protected areas are most likely linked to lower deforestation rates (p=0.051). However, nine out of 17 surveys showed an inverse relationship between species richness and the percentage of total area protected (p<0.05). These findings support previous suggestions that local endemism is more important than overall species richness when creating protected areas, and show that these areas do not meet the management goals of biodiversity conservation. More research, especially surveys of additional taxa or regions, is necessary to fully understand the relationships between biodiversity conservation, elevation, and deforestation.

Available for download on Thursday, October 03, 2019