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Amhpibians and polar animals threatened with extincion

The article below can be found here

Disasters take their toll on amphibians

January 31 2005 at 07:13AM

Scientists are concerned that almost a third of the world's amphibians face extinction from impending environmental disasters.

A total of 1 856 - or 32 percent - of all 5 743 known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, a major global study has revealed.

Accurate information is lacking on another 1 300 species which are said to be under threat. At least nine amphibian species had disappeared since 1980, when the most dramatic declines began.

Another 113 species have not been seen in the wild in recent years. They may also be extinct.

The study's findings were published in the journal Science.

More than 500 scientists from over 60 nations contributed to the Global Amphibian Assessment, the first worldwide audit of amphibian populations. Their assessment is regarded as a possible early warning of impending environmental disaster.

Amphibians, with their highly permeable skin, are extremely sensitive to the effects of climate change and pollution. Any cataclysm to hit the natural world is likely to affect amphibians first. In comparison, only 12 percent of all bird species and 23% of all mammal species are considered to be in danger.

Russell Mittermeir, president of the Washington-based organisation Conservation International, which co-led the new research, said:

"Amphibians are one of nature's best indicators of overall environmental health. Their catastrophic decline serves as a warning that we are in a period of significant environmental degradation."

The findings showed that 43 percent of all amphibian species were in decline, while 27 percent were stable. Fewer than 1% of amphibian populations were increasing, and the status of the rest was unknown.

Almost 430 species were on the Critically Endangered list, while 761 were listed as Endangered and 668 as Vulnerable. South America was the world's hottest spot for threatened amphibians. Columbia had 208 threatened species, the most in the world, followed by Mexico with 191, Ecuador with 163, Brazil with 110 and China with 86.

Haiti had the highest percentage of threatened amphibians, with 92 percent of its species at risk of extinction.

In the Americas, the Caribbean and Australia, a highly infectious disease called chytridiomycosis has hit amphibians especially hard.

New research shows that in some regions outbreaks of the disease may be linked to years of drought, which scientists are increasingly attributing to climate change.

In most other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and Africa, chytridiomycosis is less of a problem.

Here, other threats such as habitat destruction, air and water pollution and consumer demand are the leading causes of amphibian decline.

Scientists believe the world's amphibians could still be saved by an immediate commitment of resources and effort. This would mean setting up new protected areas and captive breeding programmes, and improving local community involvement.

Research leader Simon Stuart, senior director of the World Conservation Union, said: "Since most amphibians depend on freshwater and feel the effects of pollution before many other forms of life, including humans, their rapid decline tells us that one of Earth's most critical life support systems is breaking down."

I also read an article in the PJS which points to the Amazon rainforest as being a global climate controller. The article headlines states Global warming chokes Earth's 'lung'

Whether it unfolds quickly by fire or slowly through global warming, the future of this forested river basin is a key to the future of Earth's climate. Hundreds of scientists are working overtime to understand that critical relationship - between the atmosphere and the region known as Amazonia, more than 11 times the size of Texas and home to one-third of the world's species.

The key to the Amazon seems to be water. If the world warms to the point that the Amazon does not receive enough moisture, this can have many affects...

What might this mean in a time of climate change?

Worldwide deforestation is now believed to contribute under 20 percent of manmade emissions of carbon dioxide, said Artaxo. And the Amazon forest is believed to remain a "sink" - still absorbing slightly more carbon than it emits.

But scientists say the feedback loops of a warming world might change that picture in mere decades.

Computer modeling foresees a warmer Pacific Ocean stirring more frequent and intense El Ninos, the climate phenomenon that tends to dry the eastern Amazon. Rising temperatures themselves would also help dry vegetation. In addition, deforested terrain sends less moisture - via plants' "evapotranspiration" - into the air to fall as rain. Dead trees then add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, further heightening warming in a destructive cycle.

The animals of the Arctic will also be negatively affected by global warming. A Reuters article regarding a study by the World Wildlife Fund states

World temperatures could surge in just two decades to a threshold likely to trigger dangerous disruptions to the earth's climate, the WWF environmental group says.

It said on Sunday the Arctic region was warming fastest, threatening the livelihoods of indigenous hunters by thawing the polar ice-cap and driving species like polar bears towards extinction by the end of the century.

"If nothing is done, the earth will have warmed by 2.0 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by some time between 2026 and 2060," the WWF said in a report.

...New's study projected that the Arctic would warm by 3.2-6.6C if the globe warmed by 2.0C overall.

In the Arctic, such a warming could melt polar ice in summer by 2100, pushing polar bears towards extinction. On land, forests would grow further north, overrunning tundra that is a habitat for birds including snow buntings and terns.

"Global warming threatens to wreak havoc on the traditional ways of life of Inuit, putting an end to our hunting and food sharing culture," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.

The Arctic warms faster than the global average because dark water and land, once uncovered, soaks up more heat than snow or ice. A report by 250 scientists last year also projected a fast warming in the Arctic that would also open new shipping routes and make the region accessible for oil and gas exploration.

Some scientists continue to deny the above, accusing those scientist of 'scaremongering'. Sometimes, the truth is scary, but we cannot hide from it, lest we be caught unaware ;-)