Threats

Amphibian biodiversity is currently being lost at unprecedented rates around the world, primarily due to human led activities causing, amongst other impacts, habitat loss and degradation, the introduction of invasive species and facilitating the spread of deadly infectious diseases.

Habitat destruction

By far the single biggest threat facing amphibians is habitat loss and degradation. This affects more than half of the world’s 7,000 plus amphibian species.

As global human populations rise, more and more pressure is being placed on natural resources. As a result, amphibians have lost huge areas of their habitats to agriculture, livestock production, logging, urbanization and other activities.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about how habitat destruction is impacting amphibian populations.

Forests provide a stable environment for amphibians, but they’re being cut down at an alarming rate for agriculture, livestock production and timber

Amphibians are not as adaptable as other animals so are more susceptible to deforestation. They’re very sensitive to environmental changes, including changes in humidity and temperature.

In addition, the majority of deforestation occurs in tropical regions, where amphibian biodiversity is the greatest.

When forests are cleared, sometimes little patches are left behind. Amphibians living in those fragmented patches are especially vulnerable

Unable to disperse and get from one patch of the forest to the next, amphibians have less opportunity to breed. This can impact a species’ population size. It can also lead to reduced access to food sources.

Smaller patches of forest are less environmentally stable than large areas. This can seriously affect amphibians due to their physiology.

As humans encroach on natural habitats, roads, cars and urban areas disrupt natural environments and ecosystems

The effect of man-made disturbances can severely degrade natural environments. This means habitats become less suitable for the species to live in and this in turn has numerous knock-on effects.

Diseases: chytrid fungus

Chytridiomycosis is a deadly and highly infectious disease caused by a chytrid fungus known commonly as Bd.

It’s described as one of the worst vertebrate diseases ever recorded. A case in point is the mountain chicken – exposed to the disease, an estimated 99% of the global population has been decimated in the last 14 years. There is currently no cure.

Date Bd chytrid first discovered in dead and dying frogs in Queensland, Australia

Number of countries the Bd chytid fungus has currently been discovered in

100% Mortality in some species infected by Bd chytrid

Further threats

Climate change

Amphibians are highly vulnerable to Climate Change, which will also compound the impacts of other threats

Pollution

Due to their delicate and permeable skins, amphibians are highly susceptible to toxins and pollutants

Invasive species

Non-native animals introduced to an area can have devastating effects on local amphibian populations

Over-exploitation

Some species are highly desirable in the international pet trade or are used as food, impacting wild populations

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Climate change

Amphibians thrive in very specific temperature ranges so are greatly affected by climate change.

An amphibian’s breeding season is largely driven by environmental cues such as temperature and moisture. Climate change can lead to rains coming late or not at all. This in turn means amphibians won’t be able to breed as much or as effectively, which could ultimately affect population levels.

Changes in temperature can also make amphibians become more susceptible to disease and alter their local habitat.

Pollution

Due to their delicate and permeable skins, amphibians are highly susceptible to toxins and pollutants.

In some cases, amphibians are killed directly when exposed to pesticides. There are also other effects such as reproductive problems, deformities and depressed immune systems that lead to destruction.

Other highly toxic pollutants include fertilizer run-off and waste from mining that is sometimes dumped into rivers.

Invasive species

Non-native animals introduced to an area can have devastating effects on local amphibian populations.

By way of example, if a fish is introduced into an ecosystem, it can start eating a frog’s eggs and tadpoles. This can have a devastating impact on population numbers.

Introduced species can be a source of disease and spread to native populations.

Over-exploitation

Some species are highly desirable in the international pet trade or are used as food, impacting wild populations.

The global market for frog legs as a food source is extensive. Some estimates put the export of frog legs from Indonesia alone at around 80,000,000 frogs a year. This is a largely unregulated trade and is having a great impact on amphibian populations.

Certain species, such as the vibrantly coloured poison dart frogs, are highly desirable as pets. Taken in large numbers from the wild, this also contributes to the demise of amphibians.