September 26, 2008

Warning Amphibians Face Extinction

Amphibians across the world are at risk of extinction as a result of climate change, habitat destruction and disease, according to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).At a lecture at London Zoo, ZSL research fellow Dr Trent Garner warned that species in Britain such as the common toad were among those increasingly under threat.He said a recent study showed warmer winter temperatures in southern England were affecting the hibernation of toads, who would normally slow their physiology down in the cold weather.With fewer cold winters, toads were using up more of their reserves and emerging from hibernation in a poor condition. Female toad survival rates were dropping and they were producing few eggs, Dr Garner warned.He said that, globally, "the number one threat has been and will be habitat loss and there's also threats from pollution and introduction of new species. There's now evidence coming out that climate change is having or will have a strong impact, while the other thing that is a problem is infectious disease."Dr Garner said that in the short term, amphibians needed protection through captive breeding programmes in the world's zoos, targeting those at highest risk of extinction. Legislation is also needed to try to stop the spread of disease, to combat two infectious diseases a fungus and ranavirus which are pushing species to extinction across the world.The lecture was in support of the Edge (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) programme which aims to conserve rare species. Naturalist Sir David Attenborough said: "Amphibians are the lifeblood of many environments, playing key roles in the functions of ecosystems."It is both extraordinary and terrifying that in just a few decades the world could lose half of all these species."

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