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More than half of Europe’s amphibians face extinction by 2050

More than half of Europe’s amphibians face extinction by 2050

More than half of Europe’s amphibians face extinction by 2050

Jeremy Hance,
September 28, 2008

Researchers with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said over half of European amphibians face extinction in less than fifty years due to a perfect storm of threats: climate change, habitat loss, and disease. The announcement came at an event titled ‘Amphibians in a climate of change’ hosted by Sir. David Attenborough, one of the world’s most well-known wildlife enthusiasts due to his long career making nature documentaries.

"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," Sir David Attenborough told guests. "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."

Dr. Trent Garner, a Research Fellow with ZSL, highlighted the effects of disease on amphibians. Ranavirus, which may have come from the U.S., has killed thousands of amphibians in the UK alone, including taking a heavy toll on the native common frog: at least 62,000 individuals of this species succumbed to it in thirteen years. The disease causes skin ulcerations and internal bleeding. Another disease, the chytrid fungus—which has proven a scourge to amphibians worldwide—threatens a number of Mediterranean frog species. The killer fungus appeared in the UK for the first time in 2005.

Waxy monkey frog

Waxy monkey frog
Waxy monkey frog

Researchers also believe climate change will become a major threat to Europe’s amphibians.

"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,” Garner said at the event. “In the UK we are already seeing common toads losing condition and experiencing reduced survival. As climate change continues to impact habitats, the situation gets far worse for these native species."

The event was held to raise awareness and funds for ZSL’s EDGE program. EDGE is a unique conservation initiative working to save the world’s most endangered and evolutionarily distinct species. In January, EDGE announced its list of one hundred endangered and unique amphibians worldwide.

“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,” Helen Meredith, the coordinator for EDGE Amphibians, said. “We need to reduce carbon emissions but also address other pressing factors including habitat destruction and spread of disease.”

Worldwide one in three amphibians currently face extinction. In the past twenty years 200 species are known to have gone extinct.

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