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New research reveals alarming outlook for more than 2,000 amphibian species: 'They serve as a warning to us'

"Amphibians have moist skin, and they breathe through it."


Photo Credit: iStock

People worldwide grappled with heat waves this summer, but a new study has found that changing global temperatures may also be suffocating certain amphibians, creating an alarming outlook for more than 2,800 species. 

What's happening?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) discovered about 41% of 8,011 surveyed amphibian species are at risk and that "climate change effects are an ongoing or future threat to 846 threatened amphibians (30%)."

"Amphibians have moist skin, and they breathe through it. Some species use a certain percentage of their lungs and another percentage of their skin for gas exchange, or vice versa. If the climate is too dry, this affects their breathing," Iberê Farina Machado, one of the article's authors, told conservation news portal Mongabay

The study, published by Nature in October, said that "notable concentrations of threatened species occur in the Atlantic Forest biome of southern Brazil," among others. The IUCN reported that about 16% of the 1,164 species are threatened in Brazil, which is home to the most diverse amphibian population globally. 

" ... Amphibians are unable to move very far to escape the increased frequency and intensity of extreme heat, forest fires, drought, and hurricanes," said Jennifer Luedtke Swandby, the coordinator of the Red List Authority of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group. 

Why are amphibians important? 

Like seabirds and bees, amphibians can help measure the health of our ecosystem, and biodiversity is vital to keeping it in balance. 

"The warming world is losing many more species than human beings, and they serve as a warning to us," said Machado, who is the coordinator of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Assessment of Amphibians in Brazil, as reported by Mongabay.  

A decrease in amphibians could also mean an increase in pests like mosquitoes, which are eaten by amphibians and can carry a variety of diseases dangerous to humans, including malaria, Zika, and dengue

A study published by the United Nations has already cautioned that rising global temps seem to be increasing the range of mosquitoes, highlighting how the interconnected nature of our planet can create a domino effect that threatens public health. 

What can I do to help the amphibians?

The overheating of our planet linked to an increase in extreme weather events is primarily caused by human activities, and the use of dirty energy is the key contributing factor.

A study by the U.N. found that more than three-quarters of heat-trapping pollution comes from dirty energy sources like oil, gas, and coal. 

Investing in clean energy alternatives is vital, and some communities even have programs that make the transition to solar panels more affordable in the short term while saving residents money on electric bills in the long term.   

If that is not an option for your situation, unplugging energy vampires like TVs when they aren't in use could eliminate hundreds of pounds of carbon pollution each year. 

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