Habitat protection, captive breeding, and research to fight life-threatening disease needed to halt a catastrophic decline in populations
A summit of leading scientists have agreed to an action plan intended to save hundreds of frogs, salamanders and other amphibians facing extinction from familiar threats such as pollution and habitat destruction, as well as a little-known fungus wiping out their populations.
The Amphibian Conservation Summit held Sept. 17-19 concluded with proposals for a series of actions, including emergency responses to save species under the greatest threat. More than 60 specialists convened by the Species Survival Commission of IUCN-The World Conservation Union drafted the seven-page Amphibian Conservation Action Plan declaration.
"As a short-term response to prevent extinctions, the establishment of captive assurance colonies for the 200 or so most threatened species appears to be a promising option," said Simon Stuart, senior director of the IUCN/Biodiversity Assessment Unit and leader of the GAA research. The good news is that the fungal disease can be eliminated from captive colonies."
Captive breeding has been used successfully to conserve other species, such as the Hawaiian goose and Mallorcan midwife toad. The action plan proposes a major expansion of such programs in countries where species are the most threatened by the disease.
The plan also calls for research into the control and elimination of the fungal disease in the wild, as well as greater habitat protection, to maintain or re-establish viable wild amphibian populations in the future.
"Habitat destruction still remains the main threat to amphibians worldwide, and habitat conservation must continue as a priority" said Jim Collins, chair of the Declining Amphibian Population Task Force. "Amphibians often occur in relatively small areas and are more susceptible to extinction due to habitat loss or degradation than most other vertebrates."
The sharp decline in amphibian populations could be ominous for all life on the planet. Because they live on land and in water, and their porous skins absorb oxygen and water, amphibians could be the first group to feel the effects of environmental changes from pollution, climate change and other causes.
Paula Alvarado | EurekAlert!
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