On Thursday last week Sir David Attenborough hosted an event at ZSL promoting amphibian conservation; ‘Amphibians in a Climate of Change’ aimed to raise awareness of the critical conservation status of the frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians, and to support and raise money for the EDGE Amphibians project.
The Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA), which was completed in 2004, found that of the approximately 6,200 amphibian species in the world, nearly half are declining and almost one third of species are classified as threatened with extinction. This makes the Amphibia the most threatened vertebrate class.
In reality, the situation is probably much worse than the GAA results suggest because 23% of species are not known well enough even to make an assessment, and as such are classified as ‘Data Deficient’. Many of these enigmatic species may be silently slipping towards extinction without us even recognising their declines.
Furthermore, there is strong evidence that the rate of amphibian extinctions is increasing – of the 165 amphibian species which are classified as extinct or possibly extinct, 113 have disappeared since 1980. Both climate change and infectious disease have been identified as significant threats to amphibians.
“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.”
During the evening event ZSL scientists Dr. Jonathan Baillie (Conservation Programmes Director) and Dr. Trenton Garner (ZSL Research Fellow) presented evidence that climate change is already having a detrimental effect on amphibian species. Worryingly, the effects of the changing climate are likely exacerbating the effects of other threats, such as disease, habitat destruction and invasive species.
Dr. Garner said: “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” which, Dr. Garner warned, could contribute to the loss of more than half of Europe’s amphibians by 2050.
Following on Helen Meredith, EDGE Amphibian Co-ordinator, drew the audience out from their growing despair by showing that if we act now, there is hope to halt and reverse the decline of this charming and magnificent group of animals. Helen described some of the projects we are working to implement here at EDGE for the most unusual and threatened amphibians including the Chinese giant salamander, purple frog, and Sagalla caecilian.
Helen 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.”
If you would like to support our work to reverse the decline of unique amphibian species on the verge of extinction, please donate here.