SEP 26, 2018 7:39 PM PDT

Climate Change Isn't the Leading Cause of Global Amphibian Decline; Humans Are

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Around the globe, amphibians of all types are experiencing sharp population declines. Climate change has long been the primary rationalization for this unfortunate phenomenon, but a team of researchers hailing from Pennsylvania State University aren’t convinced that jumping to this conclusion tells the entire story.

Why are global amphibian populations declining? Climate change isn't the only answer.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Reporting this week in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers suggest that while climate change is likely a contributing factor in the global disappearance of amphibians, it’s almost certainly not the only one. In fact, other factors could have a more significant influence.

In an attempt to better understand the situation, the researchers analyzed decades’ worth of statistics for more than 81 North American amphibian species and then looked for correlations concerning climate change-associated side-effects like Winter severity, snowfall rate, breeding water availability, Summer soil moisture, and higher temperature.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the statistics were all over the place. Climate change alone couldn’t justify the numbers they observed. Furthermore, climate change impacts parts of the world in different ways, so it can’t single-handedly explain population losses for a species that exists all over the world.

"The influence of climate on amphibian populations is complex," explained study lead author David Miller.

"In the last 30 years, we have seen increases in temperature, while some spots have gotten drier and others have gotten wetter. In the big picture, those developments seem to counteract each other. As a result, the impact of climate change for the measures we focused on cannot explain the sharp decline we have seen and continue to see across amphibian populations."

Related: Learning from the frogs that resisted mass extinction

This begged the question: if climate change isn’t the only factor contributing to the alarming amphibian losses we’re experiencing on Earth, then what else is? According to the researchers, habitat loss and the spread of lethal pathogens may each contribute to the problem.

As it would seem, amphibian population decline isn’t a new concept; it’s been happening since at least the 19th century. The research suggests that exponential increases in land development, which demolishes the animals' natural habitats, may have caused the steepest declines in recent memory.

"It is an alarming trend," Miller added. "Across species, on average, we lose more than three in 100 of the sites where they occur each year. Whether the sites are ponds, short stretches of streams or, if we're talking about salamanders, forest plots—they're gone. Our research took place in the United States and Canada, but it's a trend worldwide."

Pathogens are another weighty factor regarding amphibian decline, and according to the researchers, the chytrid fungus and ranaviruses are just two of several known pathogens that can get amphibians deathly ill, and they’re spreading like wildfire. And as you might come to expect, it’s like all because of humankind that they are.

"Once these diseases make it to North America then the animals themselves can spread them around," he said. "But it really takes people to be involved in carrying the diseases from, say, Asia to the United States."

Related: How you should feel about endangered species day

So while climate change certainly takes its toll on the world’s diverse amphibian population, it may not impact it as much as we think it does. Instead, a slew of other factors joins forces with it to create the recipe for the ultimate amphibian population beatdown.

With new science opening our eyes to more potential threats to wildlife, additional research in this space should prove valuable as experts move forward with conservation efforts.

Source: Pennsylvania State University, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 13, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAR 13, 2020
What's the Environmental Footprint of a Glass of Milk?
The environmental footprint of various food industries is a hot media and lifestyle topic. Industries, such as the dairy ...
APR 08, 2020
Neuroscience
APR 08, 2020
Study Catalogs Mouse Facial Expressions
It's easy to gauge a dog or cat's emotion by reading their facial expression, but the same has been historically ...
APR 24, 2020
Health & Medicine
APR 24, 2020
Study Shows Marijuana Withdrawal is Real
Whether or not an addiction to marijuana is a risk of the drug has been widely debated, with the general population typi ...
MAY 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAY 15, 2020
How breathable are our changing oceans?
A study from researchers at the University of Washington examines the breathability of the California Current, the cool, ...
MAY 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 24, 2020
Bees May 'Trick' Plants Into Flowering When Pollen is Scarce
It’s no secret that bumblebees depend heavily on pollen for their unique worker-centric lifestyles. In fact, whene ...
MAY 25, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 25, 2020
Ever Wonder How Some Fish Produce Electricity?
When you hear the term ‘electric fish,’ the first thing that probably comes to mind is the infamous electric ...
Loading Comments...