WASHINGTON (AP) — Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians may eventually
have no safe haven left on the globe because of a triple threat of worsening
scourges, a new study predicts.
Scientists have long known that amphibians are under attack from a killer
fungus, climate change and shrinking habitat. In the study appearing online
Wednesday in the journal Nature, computer models project that in about 70
years those three threats will spread, leaving no part of the world immune
from one of the problems.
Frogs seem to have the most worrisome outlook, said study lead author
Christian Hof of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, federal scientists in the United States are meeting in St. Louis
this week to monitor the situation and figure out how to reverse it.
Several important U.S. amphibian species — boreal toads in the Rocky
Mountains and the mountain yellow legged frog in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
— are shrinking in numbers, said zoologist Steve Corn, who is part of the
U.S. Geological Survey's Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative. The
western U.S. has the problem worse than the East.
About one-third of the world's amphibian species are known to be threatened
with extinction, and 159 species already have disappeared, a 2008
international study found.
"It's no fun being a frog," said prominent biodiversity conservationist
Stuart Pimm of Duke University, who wasn't part of Hof's study or the USGS
effort. "They are getting it from all three different factors."
Hof's study was the first to look at projections of the three threats by
geography and see if they overlap. While they overlap some, it's not nearly
as much as expected. The wide distribution of threats leaves no refuge for
The strongest threats seem to be where the most species of amphibians live,
concentrating the potential loss of diversity, said Hof and Ross Alford, an
amphibian expert at James Cook University in Australia, who wasn't part of
The biggest threats are seen, mostly from climate change, to frogs and other
amphibians in tropical Africa, northern South American and the Andes
Mountains, areas which Hof calls "climate losers." In the northern Andes,
which have the most number of frog species in the world, more than 160 frog
species are at risk, he said.
Alford and other outside scientists said they thought Hof's work might be
overly pessimistic. But studying the geographic distribution of amphibian
threats in the future is important, they said.
USGS amphibian research initiative: http://armi.usgs.gov