One-third of amphibians threatened with extinction

If it is true that amphibians are, as Conservation International’s Russell Mittermeier puts it, “one of nature’s best indicators of overall environmental health,” then we are all in big trouble, because amphibians are having a seriously rough time of it. According to a massive new worldwide study involving more than 500 scientists from over 60 countries, published today in the journal Science, up to 122 species of amphibian have gone extinct since 1980, and up to a third of known remaining species may be rapidly nearing that same fate. “This has taken the scientific world completely by surprise,” said survey leader Simon Stuart. While air and water pollution, habitat loss, overharvesting for food and medicine, and a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, which may be worsened by climate change, all play a role in the decline of various species, biologists are still baffled by the extent of amphibian disappearances. They speak of some species experiencing “enigmatic decline,” and they’re at a loss for how to help them.