Pollution damage threatens frog extinction

Environmental damage caused by human activity could now cause nearly one third of amphibian species to become distinct over the next hundred years, a study has shown.

The equivalent number of species that would usually become extinct over tens of thousands of years are likely to disappear over the next century due to environmental changes, according to the Global Amphibian Assessment.

Due to having highly permeable skin, amphibians are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment, and have suffered severely as a result of the increase pollution of freshwater and quality of air.

“Amphibians are one of nature’s best indicators of overall environmental health,” said Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International. “Their catastrophic decline serves as a warning that we are in a period of significant environmental degradation.”

One of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted, over 500 scientists from over 60 nations analysed the distribution and conservation status of all 5,743 known amphibian species. In addition to the 32% that are threatened with extinction, the study showed that almost 1,300 other species were also under threat.

The assessment reveals that threats such as habitat destruction, air and water pollution and consumer demand are leading causes of species decline, as well as a disease lethal to amphibians linked with periods of drought, which scientists have attributed to climate change.

However, despite these findings, the scientists involved in the study stated that they were confident that an immediate commitment of resources and effort could reverse many of the present negative trends.

Creating new protected areas, captive breeding programmes, better community engagement and protection of freshwater systems would enhance their chances of survival, according to Bruce Young, a zoologist from the conservation group, NatureServe.

“We already knew amphibians were in trouble, but this assessment removes any doubt about the scale of the problem,” Mr Young said. “Now we need greater protection of natural areas and accelerated research on amphibian diseases to stem the tide of extinction.”

By Jane Kettle

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