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By Michael J Lannoo

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This amphibian population is declining more than would be expected by chance fluctuations) and refutations of the conjectures are attempted. (Failing to refute a conjecture, however, does not necessarily mean that the conjecture is true). Pechmann and Wilbur (1994) basically advocated this perspective in their essay on declining amphibian populations. Strong inference, as advocated by Platt (1964), is gained by posing alternative hypotheses against which one’s data can be compared, which leads to the refutation of one or more of the alternative hypotheses.

Policy and management decisions based on strong inferences should have a better chance of protecting species in need of protection and of providing information that may one day be important to human welfare than should decisions based on social values. Researchers concerned about the status of amphibian populations should make it a priority to follow Platt’s (1964) advice. We propose the use of a statistical review method to examine interspecific patterns regarding life history parameters and the sensitivity of certain groups of species to decline.

What makes the purported amphibian declines interesting to many ecologists is the idea that there might be an identifiable global cause, one that might pose a risk to other, less sensitive species at some point in the future. For example, Blaustein and Wake (1995) suggested that amphibian declines might be useful as indicators of general environmental degradation. Yet, if each decline or change in population density is the result of a slightly different, perhaps unique, cause, it is unlikely that the information obtained from localized investigations will ever contribute to a global model that explains environmental degradation.

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