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What We Know About Effects of Climate Change on Amphibians

Paper Reviewed
Li, Y., Cohen, J.M. and Rohr, J.R. 2013. Review and synthesis of the effects of climate change on amphibians. Integrative Zoology 8: 145-161.

Introducing their study, Li et al. (2013) write that "the influence of global climate change on amphibians has been the subject of an increasing body of research in recent decades," but they say that "a consistent conclusion from previous reviews on this subject was that the evidence directly linking climate change to amphibian declines was tenuous," citing Carey and Alexander (2003) and Corn (2005). In light of this paucity of knowledge, Li et al. decided to conduct another review of the subject, synthesizing the literature on this topic and emphasizing acutely lethal, sub-lethal, indirect and positive effects of climate change on amphibians, while identifying major research gaps that have yet to be filled.

Based on their review the three researchers report that "evidence is lacking on poleward shifts in amphibian distributions and on changes in body sizes and morphologies of amphibians in response to climate change." They also note that "we have limited information on amphibian thermal tolerances, thermal preferences, dehydration breaths, opportunity costs of water conserving behaviors and actual temperature and moisture ranges amphibians experience." And even when much of this information is available, they say "there remains little evidence that climate change is acutely lethal to amphibians." In fact, they say that "evidence that climate change is directly contributing to amphibian declines is weak, partly because researchers have not often ruled out alternative hypotheses, such as chytrid fungus or climate-fungus interactions."

In concluding, Li et al. state "we must remember that climate change will likely have both positive and negative effects on amphibians and that geographic regions will vary in terms of both the severity of and species sensitivities to climate change." And, therefore, they advise "we must make a concerted effort to quantify the net effect of climate change on species in general." And that is advice all should follow before passing judgement and rushing into policies that may well be unwarranted.

Carey, C. and Alexander, M.A. 2003. Climate change and amphibian declines: is there a link? Diversity and Distributions 9: 111-121.

Corn, P.S. 2005. Climate change and amphibians. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 28: 59-67.

Posted 24 October 2014