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A dire new report has revealed that Earth’s amphibians are now more endangered than ever before. A global assessment of over 1,000 experts has identified 41% of Amphibians at risk of extinction. These remarkable creatures, such as the red knobby newt, fire salamander, and thorny spike-thumb frog, face numerous threats, including habitat destruction, disease, and the impact of climate change.
The situation for amphibians has worsened since the first assessment in 2004, when 39% of species were considered threatened. The data from this latest study paints a concerning picture of the world’s delicate ecological balance.
Amphibians are the most vulnerable among vertebrates, with 41% of Amphibians at risk of extinction, 27% of mammals, 21% of reptiles, and 13% of birds also under threat in separate assessments. The “red list” of threatened species, maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), designates species as “critically endangered,” “endangered,” or “vulnerable” if they are at risk of extinction. This global authority on wildlife risk plays a crucial role in monitoring the health of our planet’s fauna and flora.
Jennifer Luedtke, a conservationist with the Texas-based global nonprofit Re: wild and co-coordinator of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group’s red list authority, emphasized the challenges amphibians face, including the alarming statistic that 41% of Amphibians are at risk of extinction. She highlighted that current conservation efforts tend to focus on mammals and birds, leaving amphibians vulnerable to extinction.
The study categorized amphibians into three orders: salamanders and newts (60% at risk of extinction), frogs and toads (39%), and caecilians (16%). Since 2004, 306 amphibian species have moved closer to extinction.
Kelsey Neam, a Re: wild conservationist and study co-author, called for a global movement to rescue amphibians from the brink of extinction and address the alarming situation with 41% of amphibians at risk of extinction.
The report also identified four amphibian species that have disappeared since 2004 and 185 species listed as “possibly extinct,” with no known surviving populations.
Habitat destruction and degradation, primarily driven by animal agriculture and crop cultivation, were the most common threats, affecting 93% of the threatened amphibian species. However, disease and climate change also imperiled a growing number of species.
Amphibians, known for their sensitivity to environmental changes due to their skin-breathing nature, face challenges from climate change, which include increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, changes in moisture and temperature, sea-level rise, and fires. These factors result in the loss of breeding sites, increased mortality, habitat degradation, and shifts that make it harder for amphibians to find suitable places to live.
While one amphibian pandemic related to a fungal pathogen has declined, another fungal pathogen in Asia and Europe threatens to enter the Americas. The study also noted ongoing threats from the animal trade and human hunting for food. The regions with the highest concentrations of threatened amphibians include the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America, the tropical Andes, India, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Madagascar.
Amphibians, known for their incredible diversity in size, color, and behavior, play a vital role in understanding our planet’s health. Jennifer Luedtke states, “When we protect and recover amphibians, we safeguard the genetic diversity of our planet, and we invest in a future in which all life – including human life – thrives.”
As the world grapples with the challenges of protecting these vital species, the need for global conservation efforts has never been more critical. The fate of Earth’s amphibians hangs in the balance.