Amphibians in Precipitous Decline Spurred by Climate Change and Disease

Researchers at the Zoological Society of London last night warned that over half of all frogs, toads and newts in Europe could be driven to extinction within the next 40 years, through a combination of climate change, disease and habitat destruction.

Those species most at risk are found in Mediterranean regions, predicted to become warmer and drier as the climate changes. These island species are unable to move to cooler areas as they are cut off by sea or by mountain ranges. In England too, the common toad, natterjack toad and crested newt are threatened. One study shows that as global warming alters the climate in Europe, almost every amphibian habitat would be affected.

Habitat loss, caused the the encroachment of towns and cities into rural areas is chiefly to blame, but climate change also seems to be exacerbating the threat of disease and infection to many amphibian species. In one national park in Spain for example, the amphibian population has declined sharply: as the area has become warmer, the deadly chytrid fungus has thrived and spread amongst the animals’ populations.

As the number of amphibians declines, the populations of their insect prey are expected to increase, with consequences for disease amongst humans. The chief predators of the amphibians; snakes, fish and birds, are already showing declines.

Conservationists have urged zoos to set up captive breeding programmes to save the most threatened amphibian species.

Original article: Over half of Europe’s amphibians face extinction by 2050. Guardian, 26 September 2008: