State of the World Amphibians: A Roadmap For Action

Graphic source: ‘State of the World’s Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment,’ Re:wild, Synchronicity Earth, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, 2023. Photo credit: Sandeep Das.

The “State of the World Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment” report is a comprehensive analysis of the current status of amphibians across the world. This work is the result of the Second Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA-2), which assessed the extinction risk of 8,011 species worldwide, undertaken by the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group Amphibian Red List Authority (ARLA) with the help of hundreds of scientist from all over the world, and financially supported by Re:wild, Synchronicity Earth, Rainforest Trust, Ibat, Detroit Zoological Society, MUSE-Museo delle Scienze, The Kering group, SEE, Dilmah Conservation, Honolulu Zoo, and Zoos Victoria

This report is more than an academic exercise; it’s a call to action for everyone concerned about the future of amphibians. This comprehensive guide assesses the extinction risk of 8,011 amphibian species worldwide and serves as a roadmap for targeted conservation action.

Why This Matters

Amphibians are the most endangered vertebrate group, with 41% of species facing the threat of extinction. The report not only identifies which amphibians are at risk but also pinpoints their locations and the specific threats they face. This information is crucial for prioritizing conservation efforts and resources effectively.

A Unified Approach

The report emphasizes the need for a collaborative approach to conservation. It calls upon government agencies, donors, academia, and non-governmental organizations to unite in their efforts. Groups like the Amphibian Survival Alliance, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group and Amphibian Ark are highlighted as key players in this global endeavor.

Actionable Insights

The report provides actionable recommendations across various conservation strategies, from habitat protection and restoration to disease management and policy change. These insights guide conservationists, policymakers, and researchers in implementing effective measures to protect amphibians.

Essential Tools for Amphibian Conservation

In the complex landscape of amphibian conservation, a multi-faceted approach is essential for making a meaningful impact. The “State of the World Amphibians” report outlines a comprehensive set of tools designed to address the myriad challenges facing these vulnerable species. From influencing public policy through effective communication to leveraging advanced technologies for species preservation, each tool serves a unique and critical function. Whether you’re a conservationist, researcher, or concerned citizen, understanding these tools can empower you to contribute more effectively to amphibian conservation efforts.

Effective communication and education are not just about raising awareness; they are vital for garnering public support and influencing policy changes. By educating communities, especially those near critical habitats, we can promote responsible behavior that directly benefits amphibian conservation.
A well-crafted conservation plan serves as a roadmap for action. Guided by essential data from the Second Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA2), coordinated efforts around a holistic plan have enormous potential to address threats, recover species, and prevent extinctions.
Regular surveys and monitoring are more than just data collection exercises; they are crucial for understanding population trends and the effectiveness of conservation measures. Early detection of threats like diseases enables timely interventions, making this tool indispensable.
Protecting habitats is about more than just setting aside land; it ensures that species, especially those with tiny geographic ranges, have a safe environment free from human-induced threats like deforestation and pollution.
These technologies offer more than just a scientific advancement; they provide a safety net against extinction by allowing for the preservation of genetic material, crucial for reintroduction programs.
Captive breeding programs are not just about maintaining numbers; they serve as a last line of defense against extinction, especially for species that are critically endangered and face immediate threats in their natural habitats.
Genomic studies offer more than just genetic data; they provide insights into the genetic health of populations, resistance to diseases, and adaptability to changing environmental conditions, making them invaluable for targeted conservation efforts.
Translocations are not merely about moving species; they can be a useful tool for re-establishing populations in areas where a species has been extirpated, but require careful planning to ensure effectiveness.
Accurate species identification goes beyond academic interest; it is crucial for effective conservation. Understanding biodiversity and evolutionary history through taxonomic research is essential for any conservation strategy.

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and Irreplaceable Sites

The “State of the World Amphibians” report underscores the importance of specific habitats that are crucial for the survival and conservation of amphibians. These include Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Sites, and Threatened Amphibian Landscapes (TALs). So, what do these terms mean, why are they significant, and how do they interconnect to form a larger framework for effective amphibian conservation?

These are identified using globally standardized criteria and are essential for the persistence of globally threatened or geographically restricted species. The report identifies 1,198 KBAs for amphibians worldwide, triggered by 1,350 amphibian species.
These are a subset of KBAs that hold the last remaining populations of one or more Endangered or Critically Endangered species. At least 375 AZE sites have been identified for over 700 amphibian species worldwide. These sites are irreplaceable; if destroyed, the highly threatened species within them are likely to become globally extinct.
These are areas that contain a high concentration of threatened species and face multiple threats. These landscapes are critically important to conservation, containing 71% of all threatened amphibians.
KBAs often occur within Threatened Amphibian Landscapes, serving as critical components of these larger, ecologically significant areas. The concentration of KBAs within TALs underscores the importance of these landscapes in global amphibian conservation.

Graphic source: ‘State of the World’s Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment,’ Re:wild, Synchronicity Earth, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, 2023.

Combating Disease: Chytridiomycosis and Bsal

Infectious diseases like chytridiomycosis and Bsal (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) continue to pose severe threats to amphibians, even in protected habitats. While some reports suggest that the most acute phase of the chytridiomycosis epidemic may have passed, the disease remains a significant and ongoing threat to many amphibians worldwide. The emergence of Bsal, particularly in Europe, adds another layer of urgency to the situation. The need for dedicated action to combat these diseases and protect vulnerable amphibian populations has never been more urgent. The following urgent actions are needed:

Conservation breeding programs, incorporating biobanking and assisted reproductive technologies, are crucial for safeguarding species against extinction and enabling future reintroductions.
There is an urgent need for research into practical solutions for managing and curing disease in the wild, which could include potential treatments or vaccines.
Preventative measures, such as disease-free enclosures and other site-specific interventions, are essential to prevent the introduction and outbreaks of disease.
Strict trade regulations are necessary to halt the spread of disease, as the global wildlife trade is a primary mechanism for the spread of amphibian chytrid fungi.
Regular monitoring for novel disease prevalence is critical and could include regular health checks or the use of environmental DNA to detect pathogens.

Quick Facts

  • 41% of amphibians are globally threatened with extinction, making them the most threatened vertebrate group.
  • Salamanders are particularly at risk, with 3 out of every 5 species threatened with extinction.
  • The number of amphibian extinctions could be as high as 222, considering both confirmed and potential extinctions.
  • Habitat loss is the most common threat, affecting 93% of threatened species.
  • Since 1980, the extinction risk of 63 species has been reduced due to conservation interventions, proving that conservation works.
  • The Neotropics, home to almost half of the world’s amphibians, is also the most highly threatened realm, with 48% of species at risk of extinction.

Graphic source: ‘State of the World’s Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment,’ Re:wild, Synchronicity Earth, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, 2023. Photo credit: Jaime Culebras.

Identifying the Culprits: Key Threats to Amphibians

Amphibians face a myriad of threats, from climate change to infectious diseases. Understanding these threats is the first step in effective conservation.

Impact: Climate change affects 30% of threatened amphibians. It exacerbates natural droughts, making them longer, more frequent, and more severe. It also alters fire regimes and increases the frequency, duration, and severity of extreme weather events.

Strategies and Approaches: Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are essential. This includes habitat restoration in areas that will become climatically suitable for amphibians and implementing water-saving measures in habitats.

Impact: Habitat loss is the most common threat, affecting 93% of threatened species. Agricultural expansion, timber and plant harvesting, and infrastructure development are the main causes.

Strategies and Approaches: Land-use planning and the establishment of protected areas are key strategies. Community-based conservation initiatives can also be effective.

Impact: Diseases like chytridiomycosis have had a devastating impact on amphibian populations. The emergence of a new fungal pathogen in Europe that targets salamanders has raised concerns.

Strategies and Approaches: Monitoring and early detection are crucial. Conservation breeding programs and the development of disease treatments can also be part of the solution.

Impact: Many species are harvested for food, traditional medicine, or the pet trade, putting significant pressure on populations.

Strategies and Approaches: Implementing and enforcing sustainable trade practices and community education are vital.

Impact: Invasive species can outcompete or prey on native amphibians, leading to population declines.

Strategies and Approaches: Control or eradication of invasive species, along with continuous monitoring, is essential.

Impact: Fires can result in habitat loss and degradation, as well as direct mortality. Climate change and deforestation have led to more frequent and intense fires.

Strategies and Approaches: Fire management plans and restoring native vegetation can help mitigate this threat.

Graphic source: ‘State of the World’s Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment,’ Re:wild, Synchronicity Earth, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, 2023. Photo credits (left to right): Kelsey Neam, Andrew Snyder and Gina Della Togna.

On the Brink: Amphibians at Greatest Risk of Extinction

Amphibians at the highest risk of extinction are categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), with optional tags of Possibly Extinct (CR(PE)), and Possibly Extinct in the Wild (CR(PEW)). The report reveals that extensive habitat loss has led to high concentrations of CR species in regions like the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, the Cameroonian Highlands, and the Western Ghats of India. In China and Mainland Southeast Asia, species are under extreme pressure due to both habitat loss and over-exploitation.

Islands with endemic species, such as Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and the Caribbean, are also witnessing species being pushed to near-extinction due to high rates of deforestation. Other areas with high concentrations of CR species include the tropical rainforests of Mesoamerica, the Andes of South America, and northeast Australia, where disease and habitat loss have severely impacted populations.

Highly Threatened Genera of Amphibians

Species within the same genus often share common ancestry and similar characteristics, making them vulnerable to the same threats. This section aims to shed light on these highly threatened genera, providing a focused lens through which conservation efforts can be channeled.

The top 10 most threatened frog genera contain 12% of all threatened frogs, while almost two-thirds (64%) of threatened salamanders are among the top 10 most threatened salamander genera.
Highly threatened frog genera are predominantly found in Mesoamerica and the Andes of South America, but also in Madagascar and the Western Ghats of India. Exceptionally threatened salamander genera occur in Mesoamerica, the Andes of South America, China, and Japan.
By identifying genera with a high proportion of threatened species, conservation can be more effectively tailored to benefit multiple species and mitigate known threats.
  1. Aromobates: Found in the Neotropics, particularly in the Venezuelan Andes and the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes. All 18 species are threatened.
  2. Microkayla: Also found in the Neotropics, specifically in the Central Cordillera of Peru and Bolivian Yungas. All 23 species are threatened.
  3. Telmatobius: Occurs in the Neotropics, particularly in the Northern Central Cordillera of the Andes in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. 96% of the 63 species are threatened.
  4. Atelopus: Found in the Neotropics, particularly in the Highlands of Southern Mesoamerica and Central Panama. 93% of the 97 species are threatened.

Collaboration for Conservation

The challenges facing amphibians are too great for any single organization to tackle alone. A unified, collaborative approach is essential for effective conservation. The “State of the World’s Amphibians” report underscores the importance of various organizations and stakeholders in amphibian conservation.

Government agencies play a crucial role in implementing and enforcing laws and policies that protect amphibians and their habitats. Strategies include strengthening existing wildlife protection laws and creating new ones where needed, as well as providing adequate funding for conservation initiatives.
Financial support from donors and philanthropists is vital for the success of conservation projects. Effective strategies include investing in long-term projects that have a measurable impact and supporting community-based initiatives and scientific research.
Research from academic institutions is fundamental to understanding the needs of amphibians and how best to protect them. This includes conducting studies on the ecology, behavior, and physiology of amphibians and developing new conservation technologies and methodologies.
NGOs often fill the gaps left by government agencies, especially in areas where resources are limited. Their activities commonly include community engagement, habitat restoration, and lobbying for policy change.
Organizations like the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Amphibian Specialist Group, and Amphibian Ark focus specifically on amphibian conservation. These groups often serve as a hub for information, research, and action plans specifically tailored for amphibian conservation.
Public awareness and involvement are key to the success of any conservation effort. Strategies for public engagement include volunteering, citizen science projects, and public awareness campaigns.

Get Involved

Looking to contribute to amphibian conservation? There is an urgent need for a global movement to catalyze the recovery of the world’s amphibians and call for cohesive action by government agencies, donors, academia, and non-governmental organizations. The Amphibian Survival Alliance, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, and Amphibian Ark are coordinating a global network of thousands of scientists, conservation organizations, and funders focused on improving the conservation status of amphibians. We are coordinating action worldwide to halt the amphibian extinction crisis and invite everyone to join these efforts.

Much more work remains to be done and there are various ways for individuals and organizations to get involved:

Offer your time and skills to conservation projects.
Financial contributions can make a significant impact.
Participate in workshops, conferences, and other events focused on amphibian conservation.
Collaboration between various stakeholders can amplify the effectiveness of conservation efforts.

Re:wild, Synchronicity Earth, IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2023. State of the
World’s Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment. Texas, USA: Re:wild.