Since the Global Amphibian Assessment came out in 2004, statistics detailing the sinister predicament of the amphibians have been widely and frequently quoted: One third of all amphibians are threatened with extinction; nearly half of all amphibian species are declining; amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate group or, as Rohan Pethiyagoda (then Deputy Chair of the Species Survival Commission) put it in 2005:
“The extent of these declines and extinctions is without precedent in any class of animals over the last few millennia.”
Is the amphibian extinction crisis the vanguard of a wave of extinction that will imperil all species on earth? Is there anything we can we do about it?
The fight to save the world’s amphibians shouts into a howling wind of climate change, war, economic crises, and numerous other global disasters, rendering the plight of the amphibians (just like many other aspects of biodiversity) somewhat low on the agenda of global priorities; their tragic departure is taking place almost unnoticed. As people struggle to come to terms with the earth’s uncertain future, these fascinating, charismatic, useful and captivating creatures are vanishing, taking with them innumerable resources and secrets – some of which would undoubtedly benefit mankind.
The IUCN (World Conservation Union) held a 2-day Amphibian Conservation Mini-Summit at the Zoological Society of London on the 20th-21st August 2009. It was attended by some the world’s most prominent figures in global amphibian research and conservation, all given the difficult task of setting targets that will save as many species as possible over the coming years. Following the development of an Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (the “ACAP”) in 2005, the recent Mini-Summit highlighted plans for an “Amphibian Survival Alliance” that will unite existing projects and organisations under a common set of aims. Serving as a mutually supportive network, the Amphibian Survival Alliance will coordinate conservation endeavours, scientific research and media engagement.
The Alliance will focus on infections disease (particularly amphibian chytrid, which is thought to be responsible for many reported amphibian declines and even extinctions globally) and habitat destruction as the two main threats to amphibian survival. It is hoped that this formal attempt to coordinate global amphibian conservation activities will consolidate and expand the movement to protect the world’s amphibians, enhancing the fundraising drive necessary to put vital conservation strategies into practice.
The challenge is huge, but some important new objectives are being investigated, such as developing treatments to mitigate amphibian chytrid in the wild and targeting the protection of habitats where amphibian are principally threatened by habitat destruction.
In helping to build a cooperative response to the need for global amphibian conservation, the Amphibian Survival Alliance is clearly a step in the right direction.
Want to find out more? Please read “Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline” by
James P. Collins and Martha L. Crump…out now!