Why the loss of amphibians matters

Amphibians matter to humans more than we tend to realize. The number of amphibian species around the world has been plummeting at an incredibly rapid rate in recent decades, and this decline poses a serious threat.

About 200 species of frogs have vanished since 1980, according to a 2015 study. These extinctions are due to many factors, including herbicides, habitat loss, invasive species, general pollution and chytrid fungus. The latter causes chytridiomycosis, which Save the Frogs calls “quite possibly the worst disease in recorded history” in terms of its effect on biodiversity.

The fungus has been detected on at least 287 amphibian species from 36 countries, and is suspected in more than 100 extinctions since the 1970s. The fungus most likely originated in East Asia, according to a 2018 study, and its spread is probably assisted by the international pet trade.

These numbers matter because a major decline in amphibian diversity can cause a major decline in the health and sustainability of ecosystems as a whole, and a deteriorating ecosystem means the deterioration of the quality of human life. Amphibians can help us in numerous ways — from assessing the general health of our ecosystems, to pest control, water filtration and medical research.

One of their greatest contributions is their role as “bioindicators” — markers that allow scientists to clearly identify the need for biological examination.

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