Four out of Ten Amphibians in Decline, New Study Finds


Photo by Brian Kubicki/Courtesy Conservation International

Adding to the urgency of the looming extinction crisis, conservationists today declared that 43 percent of amphibian species are declining, 32 percent are threatened with extinction, and as many as 122 species may have become extinct since 1980.

“This study confirms one of the greatest species conservation challenges of our time,” said Simon Stuart, chairman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) biodiversity assessment sub-committee. “In just the past 20 years, the number of known amphibians has increased by 48 percent. Tragically, we are losing them almost as fast as we find them.”


Stuart is also one of the lead authors of a new book providing in-depth information on the status of the 1,900 amphibian species most at risk. “Threatened Amphibians of the World,” (October 2008, Lynx Edicions, $124) was launched today at the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The book and announcement of the status of the world’s amphibians follows yesterday’s revelation at the congress that one in four species of mammals are on the path to extinction.

“Threatened Amphibians of the World” presents data on the conservation status of all the known species of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians. More than 500 scientists around the world contributed to the global assessment.


“When amphibians disappear, we lose critical links in ecosystem food chains,” Stuart said. “They are often the primary predators of insects, and have been used widely as biological controls of insect pests.

Photo by Franco Andreone/Courtesy Conservation International

“Amphibians are also an important food source for other animals, including mammals, reptiles, fish and birds. 

“They are often considered valuable indicators of environmental change in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.”

Long recognized for their value in traditional medicines, amphibians are an important source of chemical substances for use in modern medicine, with at least 73 amphibians considered to have some kind of medicinal value, Stuart added.


Climate change and emerging infectious diseases are among the most serious threats to amphibians, along with habitat loss, chemical contamination and over-harvesting.

The new book identifies chytrid fungal pathogen as a primary cause of many losses, and species most threatened with disease-induced extinction are in high-elevation, riparian habitats with small geographic ranges.

Photo by S.D. Biju/Courtesy Conservation International

“The urgency and scope of the amphibian extinction crisis requires a global scale response,” said Claude Gascon, executive vice president of Conservation International and co-chairman of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group


“We must take immediate action to better understand why amphibians are declining and becoming extinct,” Gascon said.

“We must continue to collect data, and we must design and carry out long-term conservation plans while responding to emergences to save species on the brink of being lost forever.”

Photo by Twan Leenders/Courtesy Conservation International

Read more about this on the Global Amphibian Assessment Web site.


Photo by Jorn Kohler/Courtesy Conservation International

More from National Geographic News:

Frog Extinctions Linked to Global Warming

Frog Survival Linked to Eco-Health

Deadly Frog Fungus Spreads in Virus-Like Waves


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