At least half of all amphibian species are declining, and the Global Amphibian Assessment carried out by the IUCN classified 32.5% of all amphibians as threatened with extinction – the highest proportion of any vertebrate class (Stuart et al. 2004; IUCN 2006). This global extinction crisis is unprecedented, and there has never been a greater necessity to engage in actions that seek to conserve amphibians in the wild (Mendelson et al. 2006).
Emerging infectious diseases that impact amphibians are rapidly spreading through wild populations globally, causing both declines and extinctions (Mendelson et al. 2006). Amphibian chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Berger et al. 1998), is thought to have caused the decline of over 200 species globally (Kilpatrick et al. 2010), in addition to several possible extinctions, and viral infections caused by ranaviruses have been found to negatively impact amphibian populations throughout the world and have been associated with population declines and mass mortality events (Collins and Storfer 2003; Daszak et al. 2003).
There has never been a more urgent time to engage in projects that seek to conserve the world’s amazing amphibians and their highly important freshwater habitats. The world would be a very different place without amphibians – they enrich our lives and environments, and we depend on them much more than we know. Having survived through the ages, many amphibians now face a highly uncertain future as human challenges engulf them overnight leaving them with no time to adapt. Amphibians hold crucial clues to the survival of our own species and it is through a deeper understanding of them and their current predicament that we may find ways of creating a sustainable future for us all. Amphibians are symbols of the sustainable future we must put into effect to ensure the Earth we have inherited from them is one that we can someday share for mutual benefit
Collins, J.P. and Storfer, A. 2003. Global amphibian declines: sorting the hypotheses. Diversity and Distributions 9:89-98.
Daszak, P., Cunningham, A.A. and Hyatt, A.D. 2003. Infectious disease and amphibian population declines. Diversity and Distributions 9: 141-150.
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Kilpatrick, A.M., Briggs, C.J. and Daszak, P. 2010. The ecology and impact of chytridiomycosis: an emerging disease of amphibians. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25(2): 109-118.
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