Concerns remain about UVB damage to amphibians

CORVALLIS, Ore. The exposure of amphibians to damaging levels of ultraviolet-B radiation in sunlight is likely a significant part of global amphibian declines, researchers say, despite some recent suggestions to the contrary and a scientific controversy about what role UV-B actually plays in this crisis.

Scientists from the United States, Canada and Spain have outlined their understanding of UV-B's biological effects on amphibians in an article in Ecology, a professional journal.

In it, they respond to some recent studies that have called into question whether UV-B radiation is causing severe health problems or mortality in amphibians.

"At this point, we believe the broad body of research conclusively demonstrates that UV-B radiation can cause damage to many species of amphibians at every stage of their life cycle, from egg to adult," said Andrew Blaustein, a professor of zoology at Oregon State University and the lead author on the Ecology commentary. "It appears the damage may be even worse than we originally thought a few years ago, and it's clear that rising levels of UV-B radiation, which could be caused by erosion of Earth's protective ozone layer, can play at least a part in the amphibian declines we're seeing around the world."

Most scientists now believe, Blaustein said, that a wide range of causes explain the totality of amphibian declines, and those causes include habitat destruction, disease, parasites, introduced exotic species, environmental contaminants and other aspects of global climate change. In some cases complex chains of interlaced ecological effects can lead to amphibian disease, deformity or death.

But UV-B radiation is still high on the list of concerns, the researchers say.

"At first our field studies showed only the damage that increased levels of UV-B radiation could do to amphibian embryos, where they caused mortality in some species and not in others," Blaustein said. "But with more research we've se

Contact: Andrew Blaustein
Oregon State University

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