Patrick Donnelly / Center for Biological Diversity)
Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno and Paul Smith‘s College published a paper in the journal Zootaxa describing the Dixie Valley toad as a new species in the Great Basin of northern Nevada.
While introducing this new species, the paper also highlights the authors’ concerns for the toad’s conservation: The animal’s survival is urgently threatened by proposed development of a geothermal energy facility in its range.
“I’m excited to hear about the discovery of this new toad, as it increases our knowledge about the vast diversity of amphibians that we have in this country,” said Jenny Loda, a Center attorney and scientist focused on protecting amphibians and reptiles. “But at the same time, I’m concerned for its survival. I hope it was discovered in time to save it from the threats it faces.”
The Dixie Valley toad is found in remote wetlands fed by thermal desert springs on the western edge of the Dixie Valley Playa in Churchill County. Its range is restricted to less than 1,500 acres, making it especially vulnerable to impacts to its habitat. Like many of Nevada’s groundwater-dependent species, it relies on consistent spring flow for survival. This little toad has large, prominent eyes and an olive-colored body dotted with black freckles and rust-colored warts bordered by black halos.
The Bureau of Land Management is currently reviewing the proposed Dixie Meadows Geothermal Utilization Project, which would hurt the toads by constructing facilities and infrastructure on or near their habitat. This project would pump almost 46,000 acre-feet of water per year from the natural underground geothermal reservoir, altering groundwater flow patterns and potentially draining the toad’s wetland habitat.
“We hope the BLM will recognize the importance of this new toad and go back to the drawing board on its review of the Dixie Meadows Geothermal Project,” said Loda. “It’s horrible to think that we may lose this new species just as we’re beginning to learn about it.”
The Center is working to protect the Dixie Valley toad through participation in the environmental review process for the proposed geothermal project and will submit a petition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife to protect the toad under the Endangered Species Act.
Read more about the Center’s campaign to address the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis.