Rising temperatures are responsible for pushing dozens of frog species over the brink of extinction in the past three decades, according to new findings being reported today by a team of Latin American and U.S. scientists.
The study, published in the journal Nature, provides concrete evidence that climate change has already helped wipe out a slew of species and could spur more extinctions and the spread of disease worldwide. It also helps solve the international mystery of why amphibians across the globe have been vanishing from their usual habitats over the past quarter century: as many as 112 species have disappeared since 1980.
Scientists have speculated that rising temperatures and changing weather patterns could endanger the survival of many species, but the new study documents for the first time a direct correlation between global warming and the disappearance of roughly 65 amphibian species in Central and South America.
The fate of amphibians, whose permeable skin makes them sensitive to environmental changes, are seen by scientists as a possible harbinger of global warming's effects. Rising temperatures are threatening the survival of flora and fauna worldwide.
J. Alan Pounds - resident scientist at the Tropical Science Center's Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica and the study's lead author - worked with 13 other researchers to pin down the link between rising temperatures in the tropics and the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus that has wiped out dozens of species of harlequin frogs in recent years.
"Disease is the bullet killing frogs, but climate change is pulling the trigger," Pounds said. "Global warming is wreaking havoc on amphibians and will cause staggering losses of biodiversity if we don't do something first."