November 17, 2011
Amphibians In Regions With Diversity Are Most At Risk
According to new research, tropical regions with the richest diversity are most at risk of losing frogs, toads, newts and salamanders.
Scientists predict the future for these amphibians is even more bleak than conservationists had thought.
They predict that areas with the highest diversity of amphibian species will be under the most intense threat in the future. About half of amphibian species are in decline, while a third that are already threatened with extinction.
The scientists warn that a three-pronged threat could also cause populations to decline faster than previously thought.
Amphibians have been hit hard by climate change and habitat loss, but they also face decimation by the spread of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis.
The Chinese giant salamander, which can grow to over 3 feet long, is critically endangered. The population has declined in the past 30 years due to overexploitation for food.
Scientists predict climate change, habitat destruction and disease could drive over half of all frogs, toads and newts in Europe to extinction within 40 years.
Now, the new study has found that the most threatened areas are those with the greatest diversity of amphibians.
The researchers used computer modeling to predict the impact of climate change, the effect of habitat loss from urbanization and farming and the fungal disease on amphibian populations.
"What we found looking at climate change, for example, is that many tropical regions, such as northern South America, the Andes and parts of Africa, will be highly impacted," Dr Christian Hof, from the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.
The results show that two-thirds of the areas with the richest diversity of frog and salamander species will be affected by one or more of these threats by 2080.
Also, the regions where amphibian populations are expected to suffer most from climate change tended to overlap with the areas that could suffer the most from habitat destruction.
"What we still have not really understood is the mechanistic interaction between them, like how does land use change or the fragmentation of habitats influence the potential responses of a species to climate change," Hof, who led the research, said in a statement.
Overlapping threats could mean that the estimated rate of the amphibian decline is inaccurate and its decimation could grow even faster than previously thought.
The research was published in the journal Nature.
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