Author(s)Malonza, Kinyatta P. W.
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AbstractSpecies richness varies greatly across geographical regions. Eastern Arc Mountains (EAM) of Kenya and Tanzania is one of the global biodiversity hotspots. Despite this, high species diversity the explanatory factors have remained largely unexplored. Herein, this study first investigated amphibian species richness patterns in the EAM and particularly the reasons for the low richness in Taita Hills. It tested the hypothesis that the low richness is due to past forest loss or other factors. The results demonstrated that the regional species richness pattern was influenced largely by mean annual rainfall and not forest area. Secondly, using the 26 currently recorded amphibians in the Taita Hills, it investigated the relationship between amphibian species composition along anthropogenic habitat disturbance and elevation gradients. It tested the hypothesis that sites with similar environmental characteristics (temperature, rainfall and elevation), in close proximity and with similar disturbance levels (habitat types) harbour similar species composition. It was found that amphibian species composition differed in terms of elevation and was explained by both temperature and rainfall. Therefore sites with similar environmental characteristics, disturbance levels and in close proximity geographically have similar amphibian composition. Thirdly, diagnostic characters, distribution, basic life history characteristics and conservation status of all currently known amphibians in the Taita Hills were provided. Finally, first long term life history and ecological characteristics of a brevicipitid frog (Callulina sp) was provided. The results showed that this frog abundance and distribution is influenced mainly by mean monthly temperature, breeds during the long dry season and exhibit parental care. Results of this study strongly recommend increasing indigenous forest cover in order to enhance the conservation of the endemic indigenous forest associated amphibians such as Callulina sp, Boulengerula taitana and Boulengerula niedeni.