Conservation efforts to save amphibians are largely insufficient
The hotter and drier conditions associated with climate change are presenting a number of complex challenges for amphibians, and many species are facing a higher risk of extinction than mammals, birds, or any other group of vertebrates.
A recent review written by experts at Flinders University describes why many conservation efforts for amphibians are falling short of their goals.
Frogs, toads, salamanders, and other amphibians require water and a moist environment for survival. Their natural ranges tend to be very small, which means they are easily wiped out by rising temperatures.
In places hit the hardest by global warming, like Central and South America, a large number of range-restricted amphibian species may soon have no suitable habitat left.
Rupert Mathwin is a freshwater ecologist and the lead author of the Flinders review.
“Amphibian populations are in decline globally, with water resource use dramatically changing surface water hydrology and distribution,” said Mathwin.
“Intelligent manipulation and management of where and how water appears in the landscape will be vital to arrest the decline in amphibia.”
The study authors found that many existing conservation measures are insufficient, and they have some key recommendations for future land management.
The researchers noted that one of the most successful conservation approaches is extending the time water is kept available in temporary pools. Amphibian populations can also be supported by excavating, lining, and pumping water into breeding ponds.
Amphibians are often limited by predators like fish and crayfish, so restoring natural drying patterns outside of the main breeding times can reduce predation, explained the study authors.
The experts also pointed out that releasing water from dams along river channels can harm amphibians. The high-energy water flows can blast through soil and rock and displace larvae, creating an environment that is more favorable to the breeding of predators.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the study authors said that water should be restricted in certain landscapes for amphibian conservation. This strategy has been successfully used to remove predators from breeding pools.
“Already about 41% of the species assessed are threatened with extinction, so with continued climate change we have to be smarter about managing water to maintain critical habitats and save our threatened amphibians from extinction,” said Professor Corey Bradshaw.
“It will be critical to use prior knowledge and change the way we share our successes and failures to find ways to save amphibians.”
The study is published in the journal Conservation Biology.