Global warming: What does it mean for amphibians (and for us)?

With politics still prevalent in the minds of many Americans after election season, the issue of climate change needs to be addressed. Many people think that global warming is not necessarily a bad thing, but few can deny that it is happening, slowly but surely. This winter in Blacksburg, Virginia has thus far been the warmest winter that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, with temperatures up near 70 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. Now I grant that this winter may be abnormal, but nevertheless there is enough scientific evidence to prove that global warming is real and it is an issue. Time is ticking out for us to be able to slow the progression of climate change. Already studies have shown that reptile and fish species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) may be in danger of extinction due to skews of the male:female ratio at higher temperatures. But what about amphibians?
Like many other vertebrate species, amphibians on the slopes of mountains are slowly shifting their populations upward to maintain cooler temperatures. Unfortunately, this means that animals at the very top of the mountain may be driven to extinction because there is nowhere for them to go to reach proper climatic conditions and because they experience competition from lowland species that are expanding their range upward. Warmer winters in temperature areas may also spell trouble for amphibians that are living in the presence of Bd. Freezing temperatures during winters in the Northeastern U.S. are thought to contribute to the ability of some species to survive chytridiomycosis despite experiencing infection with Bd. Global warming may be shifting temperatures toward the optimal temperatures for growth of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, contributing to the impact of chytridiomycosis. Increased UV radiation due to climate change has also been shown to have a negative effect on amphibian development and survival.
While there are many projected population declines due to climate change, there are also some population declines and extinctions that are occurring right now that have been linked to global warming. For example, population declines of the Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus), a stream salamander found in the Northeastern U.S., have been tied to increasing precipitation which is one of the many effects of global warming. There is also evidence that many extinctions of the harlequin toads (Atelopus sp.) may have been due to climate change, although habitat loss and chytridiomycosis are also likely contributors. Climate change is most likely working synergistically with other agents of decline in amphibians to result in the large numbers of threatened and endangered amphibian species that we see today.
The growing evidence of the negative impacts of global warming, both now and projected into the future, for all vertebrate species should provide motivation for people to take action. Attempts have been made to reduce carbon emissions via the Kyoto protocol, but the United States did not take part in the treaty and continues to be one of the major contributors of carbon dioxide. I think that as a nation, we should be leading attempts to halt climate change, not setting an example of environmental destruction. The future of the planet hangs in the balance, and we have the power to change it for the better by implementing conservation strategies now. Do we really need to wait until a massive climate-related natural disaster takes the lives of thousands of people before the U.S. takes action?
Frog: 5, Fungus: 5

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