Widespread Amphibian Extinctions From Epidemic Disease Driven by Global Warming

NaturePounds JA

Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming. An estimated 67% of the 110 or so species of Atelopus, which are endemic to the American tropics, have gone extinct recently, and a pathogenic chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is implicated. Analysing the timing of losses in relation to changes in sea surface and air temperatures, we conclude with ‘very high confidence’ (.99 percent, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) that large-scale warming is a key factor in the disappearances. We propose that temperatures at many highland localities are shifting towards the growth optimum of Batrachochytrium, thus encouraging outbreaks. With climate change promoting infectious disease and eroding biodiversity, the urgency of reducing greenhouse-gas concentrations is now undeniable.

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