The combination of high local endemism among a specialized flora and fauna, along with rapid forest degradation, has led to heavy attention on the tropical Andes as a priority for studying previously unregistered biodiversity. In the case of amphibians, with their apparent sensitivity to environmental perturbation, this diversity must be registered and monitored urgently and efficiently. Here we report on a comprehensive survey of frog diversity in the inter-Andean valley and eastern cordillera of northern Ecuador. The region was heavily forested into the 20th century and, despite large-scale agricultural expansion in the last 70 years, still maintains significant cloud forest vegetation above 3000 meters. During two field seasons (in 2000 and 2001), frog diversity was sampled along transects using nighttime visual encounter surveys and by diurnal intensive quadrat sampling. Although only four frog species were previously reported in the study zone, we find thirteen species, two of which are previously undescribed. Sampling was done in relatively pristine and disturbed forest as well as agricultural lands in the valley below the forest and in the alpine grasslands (or paramo) above the forest. Virtually all species are found in forested habitat and cross one tree-line to be found in either farmland or paramo. The species assemblage encountered along the fifty kilometer stretch of forest that defines the survey region is variable and seems to be affected by the level of agricultural intervention at any given site.
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|Published - 1 Dec 2001