More than half of all European amphibians could be extinct by 2050
Thursday 25 September 2008
Factors including climate change, habitat destruction and disease could wipe out more than half of Europe’s amphibians by 2050, according to scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Scientists at ZSL presented evidence for this, and their plans for future amphibian conservation, at a special event hosted by Sir David Attenborough, world-renowned naturalist, well-loved broadcaster and amphibian enthusiast.
Amphibians are the lifeblood of many environments, playing key roles in the functions of ecosystems, and it is both extraordinary and terrifying that in just a few decades the world could lose half of all these species, commented Sir David Attenborough. I am delighted to be working with the Zoological Society of London to promote amphibian conservation, in the hope that we will not be hearing the dying croaks of these amazing creatures in the years to come.
Speaking at the lecture, Dr Trent Garner, a Research Fellow at ZSL, said climate change will dramatically affect the living conditions of amphibians and survival of populations.
Published projections show that climate change alters amphibians’ habitats so we expect a large number of amphibian species to be faced with loss of habitat and ultimately extinction. In the UK we are already seeing common toads losing condition and experiencing reduced survival. As climate change continues to impact habitats, the situation gets far worse for these native species.
In addition to identifying climate change as a threat, Dr Garner and his colleagues also highlighted two infectious diseases affecting survival rates, a chytrid fungus and ranaviruses. Ranavirus kills thousands of amphibians in the UK each year and the chytrid fungus, implicated in extinctions of amphibian species around the world, has recently been identified in the UK.
The EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) programme focuses on conserving evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species and their habitats. The event, ‘Amphibians in a climate of change’ supported and raised money for ZSL’s EDGE programme amphibian conservation work, led by Dr Jonathan Baillie, ZSL Conservation Programmes Director.
Helen Meredith, EDGE Amphibians Coordinator, said: Clearly there is no time to waste if we are to prevent further species loss and effectively conserve unusual, threatened and neglected amphibian species in the wild. We need to reduce carbon emissions but also address other pressing factors including habitat destruction and spread of disease.
In the first ever comprehensive review of extant amphibians (the Global Amphibian Assessment, or GAA), it was found that almost half of amphibians are declining and one-third are currently facing some degree of threat of extinction.