Science: Global Action Team Needed to Stem Amphibian Extinction Crisis

7/5/2006

Washington, DC � Today in the journal Science, some of the world's foremost amphibian experts make an urgent call for the formation of an Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) to prevent the massive extinction of amphibians worldwide.

The new ASA would be coordinated by the international secretariat of the Amphibian Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and has an initial five-year budget goal of $400 million. The Science paper, "Confronting Amphibian Declines and Extinctions," calls for the implementation of the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP) which was created at the Amphibian Conservation Summit (ACS) in 2005. The ACS included global leaders in amphibian research, conservation, and policy and ended with a declaration of action � including the formation of a group much like the ASA.

"Amphibians are facing a dire global extinction crisis that crystallizes the impact that humans are having on the entire natural world," said Claude Gascon, co-author of the paper, senior vice president with Conservation International (CI), and co-chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group. "The strategy in this paper lays a clear path towards addressing this catastrophe. If we are not successful in this battle, we will end up losing more than just amphibians."

The extinction threat to amphibians is clear:

  • Nearly one-third of the world's 5,743 amphibian species are classified as threatened with extinction.
  • The amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis is the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates in terms of number of species impacted and threat of extinction.

"The catastrophic decline and extinction of amphibians is on a scale quite unlike anything we have ever witnessed before," said Simon Stuart, co-author of the paper and senior director of the IUCN/CI Biodiversity Assessment Unit. "More amphibian species are declining more rapidly, over a wider geographic scale than is the case for any other group of species. With amphibians, the extinction crisis is no longer theoretical. It's in our face."

The ASA model builds on programs such as the Global Environment Facility and the Turtle Survival Alliance. The ASA would coordinate and support local conservation efforts, handle databases of information, and stimulate the development of regional amphibian conservation centers (which would include expertise on captive breeding and disease research). Those centers would exist within universities, government agencies, and zoos.

For more information on the paper in Science, interviews with the co-authors, the Amphibian Conservation Summit Declaration of 2005, or the Global Amphibian Assessment ( www.globalamphibians.org), please contact Marshall Maher or Paula Alvarado.

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