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Front-row seats to climate change
Date:5/17/2013

By day, insects provide the white noise of the South, but the night belongs to the amphibians. In a typical year, the Southern air hangs heavy from the humidity and the sounds of wildlife.

The Southeast, home to more than 140 species of frogs, toads and salamanders, is the center of amphibian biodiversity in our nation. If the ponds and swamps are the auditorium for their symphonic choruses, the scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey's Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, or ARMI, have front-row seats.

Amphibians, which rely on water for part or all of their life cycle, must adjust to often atypical weather. Some years bring heavy deluges, such as the region's notorious hurricanes, and others bring the transformations that come with drought. Amphibians around the world seem to be experiencing the worst declines documented among vertebrates. While habitat loss is the number one reason for population declines, research suggests that disease, invasive species, contaminants and perhaps other factors contribute to declines in protected areas.

And then there's climate change, another stressor for amphibians to contend with. Climate change projections indicate that rainfall will increasingly come in pulses, with greater deluges and longer periods of drought. Scientists have long suspected that climate change is an important factor in amphibian declines, and resource managers are asking whether conservation measures might help species persist or adapt in a changing climate. Three recent U.S. Geological Survey studies offer some insight into the issue.

Why amphibians?

Amphibians, which are declining throughout the world, play an important role in ecological systems. They eat small creatures, including mosquitos, and they are food themselves for larger creatures, such as birds and snakes. Because amphibians are the middle of the food chain -- and sensitive to environmental disruption because of their
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Contact: hannah hamilton
hhamilton@usgs.gov
703-648-4356
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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