Loss of Species Makes Nature More Sensitive to Climate Change, Study Finds

In this blog my goal is to report on news on amphibians and studies that specifically target issues surrounding the conservation of amphibians. One of these issues is climate change, which is suspected to be a negative influence on the survival of amphibians and for instance has been held partially responsible for the extinction of the golden toad of Costa Rica. Now I also want to dedicate a post to a research that indicates that loss of biodiversity and climate change are two phenomena that can reinforce each other and make ecosystems more vulnerable. This means we should try our best to prevent both further loss of biodiversity and further warming of our climate.

A male Golden Toad. Source: Wikipedia

Here follows the original article from ScienceDaily


Climate change may boost frog disease chytridiomycosis

The BBC reported last month on a very interesting research that considered the effects of a variable temperature, thereby mimicking climate change, on the susceptibility of live Cuban tree frogs for the chytrid fungus.  What makes this interesting is that it looked at the interplay of two potential agents of decline and therefore comes a bit closer to real world conditions than other studies might have done. In my discussion of the article by Beebee & Griffiths from 2005, titled ‘The amphibian decline crisis: A watershed for conservation biology?”, we saw that they formulated several research priorities to counteract the amphibian decline crisis. One of those priorities referred to a larger focus in research on multifactorial approaches: taking into account several agents of decline in the same study to determine whether they have a synergistic effect or not. Although there still remains a lot to be looked at before we can state that indeed there is a synergistic effect between climate change and chytridiomycosis, this research provides a good first step in unraveling that relationship.

Now follows the original article by the BBC

Cuban tree frog. Copyright: SPL


Tiny new frog discovered in India bypasses the free-swimming tadpole stage

Another discovery of a frog reported by Mongabay last week.  This new frog was discovered in the Western Ghats, again proving that in India there exists a thriving community working on amphibians as reported earlier in the post about the 7000th described amphibian species. Interestingly, in contrast with many other frog species, tadpoles do not develop in the water, but instead develop entirely inside the egg.

copyright by K.S. Seshadri

Here follows the original article from Mongabay: (more…)

Conservation biology and our western individualism

I am sure many people would agree with me that conservation biology is as much a social/political matter as it a scientific endeavor. Even though scientific information on conservation status of species, general population studies, the efficacy of nature conservation and the causes of biodiversity decline is vital, but it cannot change (at least not easily) the priority we humans give to biodiversity conservation and thus the amount of effort and money we are willing to spend on it. And even if we give priority to biodiversity conservation, we tend to favor some species over others, while there is no scientific rationale for this in terms of one species being ecologically more ‘valuable’ than another. What seems particularly hard is to make people act on the obvious statement, that it is in our own self interest to conserve all species. When we look at amphibians, there is only a very small niche of the scientific community let alone of the entire human population that actually cares about them disappearing. Or, like the Canadian scientist Stan Orchard puts it: “I am sure that we all (the scientists studying amphibians, MB) recognize that to the great mass of humanity amphibian survival has little meaning”. Or maybe they would care but not long enough or strong enough to come into action. (more…)

Research finds half of tropical parks losing biodiversity

In a grand effort scientists have evaluated the effectiveness of tropical forest reserves and came to the conlusion that, quite shockingly, half of these parks are losing biodiversity. Now follows the original article from Mongabay:

Governments have set up protected areas, in part, to act as reservoirs for our Earth’s stunning biodiversity; no where is this more true than in the world’s tropical forests, which contain around half of our planet’s species. However a new study in Nature finds that wildlife in many of the world’s rainforest parks remains imperiled by human pressures both inside and outside the reserves, threatening to undercut global conservation efforts. Looking at a representative 60 protected areas across 36 tropical nations, the scientists found that about half the parks suffered an “erosion of biodiversity” over the last 20-30 years. (more…)

Reason to celebrate: the 7000th amphibian discovered

Last week, on the 30th of July, in a press release from the University of California, Berkeley, Amphibiaweb announced a milestone: the catalogue of amphibians has welcomed its 7000th member.  The discovery of a small Amazonian glass frog (Centrolene sabini) inPeru meant that since the creation of Amphibiaweb some 25 years ago the total number of known amphibian species has increased spectacularly from 4000 to 7000 species. In average, that comes down to a staggering one new species per two and a halve day . (more…)

Amphibians affected by a warming World

As a follow up on the post on an article by Beebee & Griffiths, who discussed amphibian declines and agents of decline, I would like to focus on climate change and the contribution it is making to the status of amphibian populations. For that I have chosen the article from Blaustein et al. from 2010 titled: “Direct and Indirect Effects of Climate Change on Amphibian Populations”.

Climate change as tragedy of the commons

The reason I am highlighting climate change more in this blog than for instance the chytrid fungus, which is seen now probably as a bigger killer of amphibians than climate change, doesn’t have to do with the lack of attention for climate change and the need therefore for me to draw attention to it. There are many smart and passionate people who are already dedicating themselves to the cause of battling climate change and our contribution to it.  However, I don’t believe that it is clear yet to the majority of people which devastating effects climate change can have on our planet and the flora and fauna on it, especially because it adds up so vigorously to other environmental pressures. For sure we all know the image of the polar bear wandering helplessly on the continuously breaking ice floes of the Arctic Sea, but the more subtle and less visible effects of climate change throughout the world are less known and maybe harder to popularize.


Research on ‘extinction debt’ in the Brazilian Amazon

This month a study in Science was published on the phenomenon of ‘extinction debt’ in the Brazilian Amazon, which was widely quoted in different media like Mongabay, The Guardian and The Huffington Post . This attention was well deserved because in short it told us that the majority of extinctions caused by deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is yet to come; i.e. this outstanding debt with the Grim Reaper still has to be collected. Though few species are killed off directly in deforested areas, many will disappear gradually as their breeding rates fall and competition increases. But this postponement of extinction makes it still possible to save these species, if we act timely…

Burnt forest in the Amazon. Photo by: Alexander Lees.


New colorful rainforest frog named after Prince Charles

As Mongabay reported this month, two new species of colorful rainforest frogs have been discovered in Ecuador, one of which is named after Prince Charles in honor of his conservation efforts.

Researchers described the two new species as part of an article published in Zootaxa recently that focused on the molecular phylogenetics of the Hyloscirtus larinopygion group, a group of Neotropical Andean stream-breeding frogs. In this group there are now 32 known species (with the discovery of the very first species occurring as recently as 40 years ago) and in the last decade four new species have been found. This again testifies of the riches of nature that still remain largely hidden to us.

Hyloscirtus princecharlesi. Photo by Luis A. Coloma.


New amphibian family find for India

Judging by this blog until now, frogs and toads might seem the only amphibians. For sure they are definitely the most well-known members of the amphibians, but i will also dedicate, with much pleasure, some space to the discovery of a new family of caecilians in India. Orinigally the BBC reported on this in February of this year. Now follows the original article:

A new family of caecilians, the most enigmatic branch of the amphibians, has been discovered in northeastern India. The animals, which at first glance resemble worms, live in forest soil and are most closely related to an African group of caecilians. The females incubate their young for several months without eating.

Writing in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B, the scientists say the animals may be threatened by population growth and slash-and-burn agriculture. Caecilians are very hard to spot as they live either underground or under leaf litter that lies on the soil. (more…)