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Conserv Biol. 2013 Aug;27(4):741-51. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12086. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Climate change, multiple stressors, and the decline of ectotherms.

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Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, SCA 110, Tampa, FL 33620, USA.


Climate change is believed to be causing declines of ectothermic vertebrates, but there is little evidence that climatic conditions associated with declines have exceeded critical (i.e., acutely lethal) maxima or minima, and most relevant studies are correlative, anecdotal, or short-term (hours). We conducted an 11-week factorial experiment to examine the effects of temperature (22 °C or 27 °C), moisture (wet or dry), and atrazine (an herbicide; 0, 4, 40, 400 μg/L exposure as embryos and larvae) on the survival, growth, behavior, and foraging rates of postmetamorphic streamside salamanders (Ambystoma barbouri), a species of conservation concern. The tested climatic conditions were between the critical maxima and minima of streamside salamanders; thus, this experiment quantified the long-term effects of climate change within the noncritical range of this species. Despite a suite of behavioral adaptations to warm and dry conditions (e.g., burrowing, refuge use, huddling with conspecifics, and a reduction in activity), streamside salamanders exhibited significant loss of mass and significant mortality in all but the cool and moist conditions, which were closest to the climatic conditions in which they are most active in nature. A temperature of 27 °C represented a greater mortality risk than dry conditions; death occurred rapidly at this temperature and more gradually under cool and dry conditions. Foraging decreased under dry conditions, which suggests there were opportunity costs to water conservation. Exposure to the herbicide atrazine additively decreased water-conserving behaviors, foraging efficiency, mass, and time to death. Hence, the hypothesis that moderate climate change can cause population declines is even more plausible under scenarios with multiple stressors. These results suggest that climate change within the noncritical range of species and pollution may reduce individual performance by altering metabolic demands, hydration, and foraging effort and may facilitate population declines of amphibians and perhaps other ectothermic vertebrates.


Atrazina; amphibian decline; atrazine; calentamiento global; cambio climático; climate change; contaminación; critical thermal maxima; declinación de anfibios; global warming; pollution; temperatura máxima crítica; toxicidad; toxicity

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