We sat down with Michael S. Roy, Founder and President of CREA, a new Amphibian Survival Alliance Partner whose very vision is where every person is an advocate for the conservation of nature to get a sense of the future of amphibians, what they’re doing to help safeguard that future and how you can help as well.
Amphibians the world over are facing probably the world’s most serious extinction crisis. What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions?
Habitat destruction, Bd and climate change can it get any worse? It is the perfect storm and yes we are living in an extinction era. It is likely that many more species will go extinct, some before they are even discovered. But I do not think it is the end of amphibians. Crucial to this conversation is funding, not only for amphibians but for conservation in general. There simply is not enough of it. Developing countries do not have the financial resources necessary to conserve their biodiversity and so it will require a large international effort to make the difference that is needed. International funding efforts for biodiversity conservation has not come close to what is needed. International commitments to halt human induced extinctions by 2020 is a noble objective but it has been estimated that it will cost approximately $80bn annually to achieve this, an order of magnitude more than what is currently being spent (1). Currently $7bn or so are spent on protected areas worldwide with only $1bn in developing countries where most biodiversity exists. A recent study found that the 40 most severely underfunded countries contain 32% of global biodiversity (2). Generally, the future does not look good for amphibians. However, although the conservation community is in a continual state of triage, there are some exciting success stories and efforts taking place to safeguard remaining amphibian species and document new species and ranges.
What do you think are some of the most promising developments in the fight to prevent further amphibian population declines?
Current efforts to breed endangered species ex situ has been met with success, however reintroduction efforts will face a large challenge. These efforts will rely on the existence of conservation areas free of disease and free of impacts, unless “immunization” can be shown to be effective. It will be interesting to see the results and lessons learned from recent attempts to reintroduce captive bred species. It is also surprising and humbling to know that we are rediscovering certain species that were caught up in the Central American Bd wave. Although their gene pools are likely to have been decimated, some species appear to be hanging on in some surprising places.
Why did you join the Alliance and what are you doing to help protect amphibians?
The ASA and CREA have a similar philosophy that conservation can only be successful through collaboration and awareness building, all based on a platform of science. CREA aims to protect some of last regions on Earth that hold spectacular biodiversity through several approaches including managing the Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama, through which it undertakes research and education activities. Our amphibian research, in collaboration with a number of academic institutions, in addition to documenting species ranges, is looking at niche requirements of vulnerable highland frogs and attempts to understand how some species have shown resilience against Bd. We hope this research will support reintroduction efforts in the future. In addition, we are providing opportunities for school and university students to learn about tropical ecology and conservation issues right at the forest frontier in Panama. These courses aim to build awareness based on science and practical guidance on how each one of us can make a difference in any walk of life.
What can the average person, as well as the private sector, do in order to tangibly and actively participate in amphibian conservation?
The average person must seek to gain information on these issues. It was somewhat of a silver lining to hear the Bd outbreak in Madagascar be mentioned as top news on the BBC. I would hope that such news inspires people to learn about these issues. Once they have knowledge they will hopefully be inspired to tell others and to demand action from our governments and industry leaders.
Large corporations are now as rich or richer than entire governments and sometimes have disproportionate control over them and their policies. Right or wrong, they do however have the resources to do something about the global extinction crisis. Actively engaging with corporations and finding common ground is essential if we are to conserve global ecosystem function and biodiversity. Finding avenues to engage and educate the private sector in ecosystem service risks that endanger their profits and their reputation can, and has, shifted business models. Private sponsorship of flagship conservation projects has been show to be an efficient and new revenue stream (3). Current examples however are few and far between, but it is up to organizations like the ASA and its members, to continue building the science and the awareness so that incorporating ecosystem health and services into a company’s business plan becomes as mainstream as forecasting profit and loss.
- McCarthy et al., 2012. Science Vol. 338 no. 6109 pp. 946-949
- Anthony Waldron. 2013. PNAS 110 no. 29
- Joseph R. Bennett, et al. 2015. Proc. R. Soc. B: 282 No. 1805.