The latest: A worrying amphibian decline

  • Boreal toads are just one amphibian species suffering from mysterious population declines.

    Montana FWP

Scientists have known for years that frogs and toads are in rough shape. Nearly a third of all amphibian species face extinction -- including the boreal toad, once common in high mountains around the West ("Toads on high," HCN, 8/22/11). Climate change, habitat loss and disease are all factors in the decline; chytrid fungus, which spread from escaped African clawed frogs, is also probably a major culprit.

A new study pinpoints just how rapidly frogs and toads are dying, finding that American amphibians disappeared from nearly 4 percent of their habitat every year from 2002-2011. Threatened species, like California's mountain yellow-legged frog, are disappearing the fastest but even common varieties of frogs and toads are on a downward spiral. "Some of the really dramatic declines seemed to be in some of the best-protected areas," lead author and U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Michael Adams said, suggesting that even national park-level protection doesn't shield amphibians from mysterious maladies.

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