In light of a recent study published in the journal Nature, the situation of amphibians is becoming increasingly worrisome. Nearly 41 percent. With more than 8,000. of the analyzed species are endangered amphibians, and this number is growing every year. The study is based on data from the second Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA2), which was published last year. This is an important knowledge update on amphibian conservation around the world.
Amphibians threatened with extinction – alarming numbers
According to the study, which involved more than a thousand experts from around the world, since 1980. The number of endangered amphibian species increased by nearly 3 percent. Moreover, at least four have gone extinct in the past 19 years (two species of frogs from Australia and Guatemala, salamanders from Guatemala and toads from Costa Rica), and 185 others are “probably extinct.”
Endangered amphibians are species that live mainly in the Caribbean Islands, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, as well as in Mexico, Central America, the tropical Andes, India, Cameroon and Nigeria.
What threatens amphibians?
Amphibians at risk of extinction are a barometer of environmental health. These animals, due to breathing through the skin, are extremely sensitive to external conditions. The three main factors that negatively affect their numbers are human activity, disease and climate change.
Human activities that directly affect amphibians include habitat destruction through cultivation and farming. It has been estimated that as many as 93 percent suffer from this condition. endangered species. An additional factor is the increasing chemicalization of agriculture. Amphibians’ delicate skin is not much of a barrier to substances in the water, which is why they react to environmental pollution faster than any other vertebrate animals. The consequences are reproductive or developmental disorders (e.g., embryo death or the formation of non-viable mutants).
Disease and climate change as further threats
The effects of climate change, including the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as storms, floods and droughts, changes in humidity and temperatures, sea level rise and wildfires, could result in the loss of many amphibian breeding sites. They also make it difficult to find suitable places to live by fragmenting and destroying habitats. Climate change also makes amphibians more susceptible to threats such as Ranavirus (Iridoviridea) viruses, Ribeiroia sp. fluke (Ribeiroia sp.) fluke (Ribeiroia sp.), and other viruses. and protozoa from the Perkinsea group.
For amphibians, diseases caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium sp. of the family of jumpers (Chytridiomycota) are dangerous. Pathogens prevent amphibians from hydrating properly and can cause heart attacks.
Amphibian conservation efforts
According to Kelsey Neam, one of the lead authors of the GAA2 study, more investment to protect these animals is urgently needed. Careful monitoring of populations and the establishment of new protected areas is also essential. Effective habitat maintenance continues to be a priority in amphibian conservation, as it contributes significantly to improving amphibian numbers.
In addition, experts are concerned that amphibians at risk of extinction are often overlooked in many conservation programs, which many times focus only on mammals and birds. The researchers called on politicians to become more involved in the issue. Kelsey Neam stresses that “a global movement is needed to accelerate the recovery of the world’s amphibian population.”
Important place in the ecosystem
It should not be forgotten that amphibians threatened with extinction are a symptom of broader environmental problems that affect the entire planet and its inhabitants. These animals are a significant link in food chains. They keep the abundance of various arthropods, especially insects, at an appropriate level. They also regulate snail and even rodent populations. They are not only an important part of the trophic network, but also affect the health of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Their importance is also manifested in medical research. Some species of amphibians have been used in drug production and disease research.
Amphibians at risk of extinction as a local and global challenge
It is important to take local action to protect amphibians. This includes both public education and concrete conservation activities. Today, ponds are being restored in many places around the world, including Poland, allowing amphibians to breed successfully. It is much more difficult to combat water and soil pollution that results from the use of chemicals in agriculture. Amphibians are the most endangered vertebrate cluster in the world, recent data shows. Today there are about 8680 species of them (data from 2023), including 19 in Poland.