Conservation genetics of two threatened frogs from the Mambilla highlands, Nigeria
Amphibians are the vertebrate group with the highest number of species threatened with extinction, and habitat loss and fragmentation are considered to be among the leading causes of their declines and extinctions. Little is known of the population biology of amphibian species inhabiting montane forests in Central and West Africa, where anthropogenic activities such as farming and cattle raising are major threats to native biodiversity. We used Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLPs) to assess the population genetic structure of two poorly known species, Cardioglossa schioetzi and Leptodactylodon bicolor (both in the Arthroleptidae), in and around Ngel Nyaki Forest Reserve on the Mambilla Plateau in eastern Nigeria. The landscape comprises continuous forest on steep slopes and small riparian forest fragments in a grassland matrix. While increased fragmentation is well documented for these and other forests in the mountains of Cameroon and Nigeria over the past century, there are no previous assessments of the impact of forest fragmentation on montane amphibian populations in this region. Our estimates of genetic diversity are similar across populations within each species with levels of heterozygosity values consistent with local population declines. Except for a pair of populations (C. schioetzi) we did not observe genetic differentiation between forest and riparian forest fragment populations, nor across sites within continuous forest (L. bicolor). Our results demonstrate recent gene flow between forest fragments and the adjacent protected forests and suggest that small forest corridors connecting these may lessen the genetic consequences of at least 30 years of intense and severe fragmentation in Ngel Nyaki.