Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Climate Change

Climate change could pose a number of problems for amphibians, and can be grouped into 4 main categories: 1) changes in the local environments they inhabit (soil temperature, prey availability); 2) changes in the phenology (timing) of activities such as foraging and breeding; 3) changes in the presence of pathogens and exotic species; and 4) interactions of climate with other stressors such as pollutants.

Currently, climate models predict warmer temperatures and increased variability in the timing of precipitation.  Amphibians are ectothermic, so their metabolism and activity is closely tied to environmental conditions, and many species respond strongly to changes in precipitation and temperature.  For many species, the timing of key life events such as breeding, migration, and metamorphosis is tied to precipitation and temperature.  If climate changes causes these events to occur earlier or later, growth and survival may be affected if other environmental factors (prey availability, presence of water) do not shift accordingly.  Moreover, amphibians require aquatic habitats or moist environments for egg laying and larval development; as the climate changes and water availability becomes more variable, amphibians may experience lower rates of survival to metamorphosis.

Interactions with other threats are a key focus of research on the response of amphibians to climate change.  Research suggests that climate change is likely to increase the virulence of pathogens and the susceptibility of amphibians to infection.  Similarly, increased physiological stress may change the vulnerability of amphibians to invasive species, pollutants, or other environmental factors that currently do not pose a significant threat.


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