Pablo Menendez

McGill University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: David Green
Jonathan Davies
Start: 2014-09-01
End: 2019-05-01


Understanding amphibian vulnerability to climate change: A phylogenetic and spatial approach
Amphibian diversity is declining across the world at an unprecedented rate (Wake, 1991; Sodhi et al., 2008; Collins, 2010), with Neotropical species among the most affected (Stuart et al., 2004). Direct causes of these declines are still a matter of research and debate, however recent changes in climate are often associated with species declines in Neotropical regions (Pounds et al., 2006; Hof et al., 2011; Menéndez-Guerrero and Graham, 2013). Given that climate change is predicted to be more severe and a major cause of species loss in the coming decades (Thomas et al., 2004; Araújo et al., 2006; Hof et al., 2011), loss of amphibian diversity may be increasingly marked by the decline of entire clades (Batista et al., 2013). In the face of this crisis, understanding how amphibian diversity will respond to climate change is a key step in developing long-term conservation strategies (Hannah et al., 2002; 2007). Efforts predicting the effects of climate change on biodiversity have been largely focused on taxonomic diversity (Thomas et al., 2004; Araújo et al., 2006; Hof et al., 2011). However, a complete analysis of climate change impact on diversity must also incorporate the evolutionary relatedness among species, ecological function and evolutionary potential (Graham and Fine, 2008). For instance, the inclusion of phylogenetic information allows expressing the current biodiversity crisis in terms of the amount of evolutionary history lost or at risk, rather than only focus on the numbers of species that have gone or are in imminent risk of extinction (Purvis et al., 2000a). Phylogenetic comparative methods allows assessing whether groups of closely related species that face similar susceptibility will require more urgent attention, and hence predicting species vulnerability to extinction (Baillie et al., 2004; Bielby et al., 2006; Isaac et al., 2012; Yessoufou et al., 2012). This susceptibility might be explained not only by shared evolutionary history (i.e. similiraty through descent) but also because of overlapping geographical distributions. Assessing both the phylogenetic and geographic structure in vulnerability to climate change is therefore imperative. Evolutionary processes (e.g. adaptation) have also been recently incorporated in conservation planning under climate change (Thomassen et al., 2011). Nonetheless, macroecological approaches are still very scarce, especially in Neotropical regions. The Neotropical Andes top the list of hotspots for endemism and the number of species by area worldwide (Myers et al., 2000), and hence provides an ideal setting to focus on research at the interface of macroecology, climate change, and conservation. Here, I will assess the phylogenetic and geographic components of species vulnerability to climate change. I will first evaluate the impacts of climate change on different levels of future biodiversity (i.e. taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional), and explore the predicted changes in diversity patterns along geographical gradients. Second, I will investigate projected phylogenetic patterns of extinction risk due to climate change, in order to determine whether future threat due to climate will be fundamentally different from other current extinction threats in terms of biasing the phylogenetic patterns of species loss. Third, I will develop a spatially explicit framework to identify priority areas for amphibian diversity conservation. This new framework will be constructed using ecological and life-history data, along with species-specific responses and species' predicted exposure to climate change. Finally, in my fourth chapter I will assess the importance of the protective skin microbiota of amphibians in their sensitivity to the last decades of climate warming.


amphibians, Phylogenetic Diversity, functional diversity, Taxonomic diversity, Systematic conservation planning , Extinction risk, climate change


1- Evolution of Dietary Specialization and Chemical Defense in Poison Frogs (Dendrobatidae): A Comparative Analysis
Darst, Catherine R., Pablo A. Menéndez‐Guerrero, Luis A. Coloma, David C. Cannatella
2005 The American Naturalist

2- Environmental Components and Boundaries of Morphological Variation in the Short-Tailed Fruit Bat (Carolliaspp.) in Ecuador
Jarrín-V, Pablo, Pablo A. Menendez-Guerrero
2011 Acta Chiropterologica

3- Evaluating multiple causes of amphibian declines of Ecuador using geographical quantitative analyses
Menéndez-Guerrero, Pablo A., Catherine H. Graham
2013 Ecography