October 14, 2004 (Washington, DC/Gland, Switzerland) The world's amphibian species are under unprecedented assault and are experiencing tens of thousands of years worth of extinctions in just a century, according to the most comprehensive study ever conducted. More than 500 scientists from over 60 nations contributed to the Global Amphibian Assessment, the key findings of which were published on-line by Science Express this afternoon, and will appear within the next few weeks in the journal Science
Over the past three years, scientists analyzed the distribution and conservation status of all 5,743 known amphibian species which include frogs and toads, salamanders, and caecilians. Of these, 1,856 or 32 percent are now considered threatened with extinction. In addition, sufficient data are lacking to accurately assess the status of nearly 1,300 other species, most of which scientists believe are also threatened.
Amphibians are widely regarded as "canaries in the coal mine," since their highly permeable skin is more immediately sensitive to changes in the environment, including changes to freshwater and air quality.
"Amphibians are one of nature's best indicators of overall environmental health," said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International (CI). "Their catastrophic decline serves as a warning that we are in a period of significant environmental degradation."
Key findings of the study include:
- According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, at least 1,856 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, representing 32 percent of all species. By comparison, only 12 percent of all bird species and 23 percent of all mammal species are threatened.
- At least nine species have gone extinct since 1980, when the most dramatic declines began. Another 113 species have not been reported from the wild in recent years and are considered to be possibly extinct.
Contact: Brad Phillips
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