40% of amphibians face imminent extinction

Wake, D. 2 Mar 2012. Facing Extinction in Real Time. Science vol 335, 1052-53.

Throughout the world, amphibians are in decline, and many species—perhaps 40%—face imminent extinction. Recent studies have discovered why amphibians are dying.

The amphibian decline is happening for many reasons, here are just a few, and the combination of these multiple factors will make die-off much worse than a single factor alone:

  • habitat destruction
  • climate change
  • pesticide use
  • invasive species
  • a chytrid fungus (Chytridiomycosis)

Over the past decade, the number of known amphibian species has increased by ∼25% to nearly 7000. Most of these species are new discoveries with very restricted geographic ranges and are thus likely to be vulnerable to all factors currently threatening amphibians.

The main message of the new research on amphibians is that there are additive threats from multiple forcers. This has serious implications. Whether we are studying long-term climatic trends, changes in populations, patterns in human behavior, interactions among diverse factors in infectious disease ecology, or mitigation of stressors, integrative approaches in conservation biology, ecology, and ultimately evolution are essential for understanding and countering the threat to amphibians.

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