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Scientists call for Amphibian Survival Alliance

The biodiversity crisis threatening many of the Earth's flora and fauna has hit amphibians particularly hard. Of the 5,743 known species of amphibians, 32.5 per cent are threatened, and between nine and 122 have already become extinct since 1980.

Some 50 of the world's leadin...
The biodiversity crisis threatening many of the Earth's flora and fauna has hit amphibians particularly hard. Of the 5,743 known species of amphibians, 32.5 per cent are threatened, and between nine and 122 have already become extinct since 1980.

Some 50 of the world's leading researchers of amphibians have therefore launched an appeal, in the journal Science, for funding to establish an Amphibian Survival Alliance. The Alliance would be intended to reduce and prevent decline and extinction, and would involve research, training, monitoring, salvage operations, disease management, captive breeding and possibly a global network of centres.

'This is part of an overall biodiversity crisis, and amphibians seem to have been hit the hardest of all vertebrate species,' said Professor Andrew Blaustein of Oregon State University.

Amphibians have existed for more than 300 million years, outliving many other species. Their vulnerabilities are however now becoming apparent: 'Amphibians have sensitive skin, they live in both land and water, have no protective hair or feathers, and their eggs have no hard outer shell. So it's clear why they may be vulnerable on some levels,' said Professor Blaustein.

Threats to amphibians include rising levels of ultraviolet radiation, increases in pollutants and pesticides, extensive habitat loss due to agriculture or urbanisation, invasive species and fungal diseases.

The loss of amphibians is also likely to impact upon other species - they feed on insect pests and are themselves food supply for birds, fish and other animals.

In May 2006 the European Commission adopted an action plan for halting biodiversity loss by 2010. In the paper was stated: 'Europe's ecosystems have suffered more human-induced fragmentation than those of any other continent. For example, only 1-3 per cent of Western Europe's forests can be classed as 'undisturbed by humans'; since the 1950s, Europe has lost more than half of its wetlands and most high-nature-value farmland; and many of the EU's marine ecosystems are degraded. At the species level, 42 per cent of Europe's native mammals, 43 per cent of birds, 45 per cent of butterflies, 30 per cent of amphibians, 45 per cent of reptiles and 52 per cent of freshwater fish are threatened with extinction; most major marine fish stocks are below safe biological limits; some 800 plant species in Europe are at risk of global extinction; and there are unknown but potentially significant changes in lower life forms including invertebrate and microbial diversity.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said at the time: 'Scientists are not exaggerating when they refer to the sixth great planetary extinction. The last was 65 million years ago and saw the departure of the dinosaurs.'

Source: Press sources, European Commission
Record Number: 26004 / Last updated on: 2006-07-13
Category: Other
Provider: EC
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