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Nature. 2006 Jan 12;439(7073):161-7.

Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming.

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  • 1Golden Toad Laboratory for Conservation, Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve and Tropical Science Center, Santa Elena, Puntarenas 5655-73, Costa Rica. goldtoad@racsa.co.cr

Abstract

As the Earth warms, many species are likely to disappear, often because of changing disease dynamics. Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming. Seventeen years ago, in the mountains of Costa Rica, the Monteverde harlequin frog (Atelopus sp.) vanished along with the golden toad (Bufo periglenes). An estimated 67% of the 110 or so species of Atelopus, which are endemic to the American tropics, have met the same fate, and a pathogenic chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is implicated. Analysing the timing of losses in relation to changes in sea surface and air temperatures, we conclude with 'very high confidence' (> 99%, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) that large-scale warming is a key factor in the disappearances. We propose that temperatures at many highland localities are shifting towards the growth optimum of Batrachochytrium, thus encouraging outbreaks. With climate change promoting infectious disease and eroding biodiversity, the urgency of reducing greenhouse-gas concentrations is now undeniable.

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PMID:
16407945
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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