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Earth Science

1/3 of Amphibians Dying Out 467

Posted by kdawson
from the world-without-frogs dept.
Death Metal sends in a Scientific American article reporting that 2,000 of 6,000 amphibian species are endangered worldwide. A combination of environmental assaults, including global warming, seems to be responsible. "... national parks and other areas protected from pollution and development are providing no refuge. The frogs and salamanders of Yellowstone National Park have been declining since the 1980s, according to a Stanford University study, as global warming dries out seasonal ponds, leaving dried salamander corpses in their wake. Since the 1970s, nearly 75 percent of the frogs and other amphibians of La Selva Biological Station in Braulio Carrillo National Park in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica have died, perhaps due to global warming. But the really bad news is that amphibians may be just the first sign of other species in trouble. Biologists at the University of California, San Diego, have shown that amphibians are the first to respond to environmental changes, thanks to their sensitivity to both air and water. What goes for amphibians may soon be true of other classes of animal, including mammals."
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1/3 of Amphibians Dying Out

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  • Bullshit! (Score:2, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) *

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PufNFWo9mm0 [youtube.com]

    The endangered species act is a national disgrace.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      99.999% of all the species that have ever existed are extinct!!!

      IT IS NATURAL FOR PLANTS AND ANIMALS TO GO EXTINCT!
       

      • You're right. We should just reclassify humanity as an extinction event, like a giant meteor impact, beyond our control!, and move on with our lives.

        Oh, right. That whole 'food chain' thing that we're at the top of. What's that old saying about chains and weakest links?

      • Re:Bullshit! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BPPG (1181851) <bppg1986@gmail.com> on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:31AM (#25608999)

        It is perfectly natural for plants and animals to go extinct.

        But there ought to be cause for concern when so many are about to go extinct at once. Whether or not it's a natural disaster or a human-caused disaster can be debated until the cows come home, but the planet is changing right now, causing irreparable damage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014)

        Well, that's a classic example of missing the point.

        What is a species after all? Depending on how you define it you can manipulate the numbers. A species by itself isn't very important.

        What is going on is a loss of genetic information in the natural world. Does it matter? Depends on your timeframe. Over the long term, of course it doesn't matter, where the long term is on the million year scale. Over the short term, say the next thousand years, it will matter a great deal.

        Why does diversity matt

    • by Valdrax (32670) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:30AM (#25608991)

      Personally, I wouldn't take advice on the law or public policy from two jokers who make a living from misdirection and yelling profanity at reasoned arguments.

      Furthermore, I wouldn't cite as evidence of how horrible the ESA is a video that builds part of its argument around the notion that there is no mass extinction event going on right now in an article about a mass extinction event going on right now.

      Good Lord, give me back the past 30 minutes of my life. What an irritating mishmash of profanity, name-calling, and irrational conservative talking points. Lindy's story was kind of sad, but the impact of the story was blunted severely by all the smug, sneering, venomous, and immature posturing that overlay it.

    • Re:Bullshit! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kingleon (1399145) on Monday November 03, 2008 @04:08AM (#25609465)
      Although I greatly enjoy Penn and Teller's views on a variety of subjects, particularly civil liberties, many of their more science-centered episodes rely on rampant misinformation. As a paleontology graduate student trained in both mass extinctions and the geology of climate change, I find the responses on Slashdot disturbing. The current biodiversity crisis and the anthropogenic impact on climate are as true as the theory of evolution. For a website where I regularly see creationist science regularly and rightfully dismissed, I am confused how you have allowed yourselves to otherwise ignore modern science. The question of whether it is prudent to stop the current biodiversity crisis, i.e. the extreme increase in extinction rates across all taxa, is another matter. No biologist today can easily say what impact the loss of any one species will have: likely none per case, but potentially a great deal. Our society depends on working ecosystems. Go read about current fishery crises if you are otherwise confused on that matter, or on the incredibly scary "source/sink" dynamics of population ecology. The fact of the matter is that we don't know enough what removing so many "insignificant" taxa will have on the ecosystem. Are you aware of the great diversity of animals that live below your own feet, in the soil below you? What if they were lost? At this point it is likely too late to stop the "sixth mass extinction" entirely, but we have time to make the impact less. With no data on the possible outcome, but the potential for enormous risk, it seems imprudent to not take action. Preserving species also means preserving their ranges, because taxa with small ranges are much more likely to go extinct (see anything by Dave Jablonski). Ranges also shift greatly during climate change. When I saw that episode of Penn and Teller several years ago, I was sad for the girl in the wheelchair, but that plot of land in Florida might actually mean the difference between that bird going extinct or not. Crazy, but, yeah, true. Penn and Teller in that episode, if I remember rightly, offer to kill every chimp on earth to save an AIDS-infected junkie. A polarizing statement but : can anyone really say the research value of the global chimp population is really that low? Thankfully, we don't have to kill a junkie to save chimps. In fact, we don't have to kill anyone to save any animals. We just have to make our lives slightly less pleasant and be willing to say some things are hands off. Amazing, huh? Then we avoid the otherwise unpredictable effects. (TFA is remarkable for being able to put hard numbers to our fears, saying how many taxa of a particular group are in danger.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LaskoVortex (1153471)

        You are dead on, but the human race can't really see past its nose as a whole, especially when things are going well--and if you have time to type drivel on /., things are going well.

        I'd be amazed if any of the self professed "conservatives" who spew ignorance and misinformation in this thread realize the extent and long-reaching consequences of something even as concrete as the current credit crisis--and this hits them (and me) right in the pocket book.

        But take comfort in the fact that humans will eventual

      • Re:Bullshit! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by _merlin (160982) on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:17AM (#25610179) Homepage Journal

        For a website where I regularly see creationist science regularly and rightfully dismissed, I am confused how you have allowed yourselves to otherwise ignore modern science.

        Simple: people here dismiss anything that makes them feel uncomfortable: the idea that there may be an omnipotent, omniscient God makes them uncomfortable, so they dismiss anything that relies on that idea (creationism, afterlife, absolute morality, etc.); likewise, the idea that a materialistic, consumerist lifestyle may be destroying the planet makes them feel uncomfortable, so they dismiss anything that relies on that idea (global warming caused by pollution, USA being the world's worst polluter, importance of biodiversity, etc).

      • Re:Bullshit! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by dasunt (249686) on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:59AM (#25610717)

        Considering we've had temperature shifts in the recent geological past without losing the majority of species, I suspect that habitat loss and not global warming is the main drive behind the amount of endangered species and the drop in populations.

        Its not rocket science. Reduce the range of a species and the population through human interaction, and any change to the environment -- dry seasons, cold winter, flooding, epidemics, pollution, etc, and there's a better chance of wiping out the remaining survivors.

    • by Lifyre (960576)

      While they bring up some interesting points Penn and Teller are perhaps not the best people to consult for you science needs. They bring up some interesting points, such as the former Greenpeace guy, but due diligence isn't their thing. Their big theme also isn't whether or not we're causing a mass extinction event but that the ESA is a bad thing. This falls right in line with their political views of small government, nothing to see here move along.

      There is no question we are directly and rapidly effect

  • by CavemanKiwi (559158) on Monday November 03, 2008 @01:37AM (#25608709)
    Has someone told phelps? Has to be said. :)
  • The rule for species survival is simple: adapt or die. There are historical events of much greater scale and effect than this global climate change will be. If a species can't adapt, then it will die out. A species that can't adapt to a minor change in environment was probably doomed to extinction anyways regardless of Man's contribution to global climate change.

    Nature rule, Danial-san.

    • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:02AM (#25608849)
      While it may seem fine and dandy to say that - if enough of the ecosystem is wiped out then it will make life much more difficult for us. Remember that when one species dies out its not just it that is effected, other species in the ecosystem that rely on it for their niches are also destroyed, and when enough go it creates a chain reaction that takes out quite a lot. If we are not careful we can make life very bad for us, and could even render earth uninhabitable.
    • by KeensMustard (655606) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:30AM (#25608987)

      The rule for species survival is simple: adapt or die.

      Yep - simple rule, and it applies to us as well. And compared to other species, our adaptation is simple and very easy. Yet we don't seem to be able to accept the necessity, let alone commence the process. Does our own apparent inability to adapt mean that our extinction should be treated with the aplomb with which you dismiss the amphibians, the coral reefs, the oceanic plankton?

      There are historical events of much greater scale and effect than this global climate change will be.

      Probably not. This extinction event is shaping up to be unprecedented. I'm wondering actually how you arguments will fit with the conversations we will have with our kids about all those animals in kids books that we killed off. I suppose we could burn all our copies of Finding Nemo.

      A species that can't adapt to a minor change in environment was probably doomed to extinction anyways regardless of Man's contribution to global climate change.

      I guess in the same way, it doesn't matter if I run over an old man in the street, because I couldn't be bothered steering. He would have died anyway, right?

    • by BPPG (1181851) <bppg1986@gmail.com> on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:41AM (#25609049)

      This isn't about feeling sorry for the animals. Every field of science, from biochemistry to aerodynamics has benefited and can continue to benefit from studying animal and plant life. Amphibians are a particularly interesting family that has contributed a lot to science.

    • by dancingmad (128588) on Monday November 03, 2008 @03:58AM (#25609419)

      Since there are already many comments already posted I doubt this will get read and I suspect the OP is a troll, but this is really an unpalatable level of ignorance.

      Amphibians aren't a "species," they're an entire class of interesting, ecologically important animals. Their continued existence is in our best interest for a number of reasons;

      First, amphibians tend to be important bell weather species in their habitats. Since they take in water in the first part of their life cycles, they are important barometers of the amount of pollution in an environment.

      Second they are ecologically important. As predators we depend on them to keep the number of insects down. In a world without amphibians I suspect insect borne human disease will become more rampant. They also are important food sources for larger animals.

      Third, it is not a issue of "adaptation." Most scientists seem to agree the biggest threat facing amphibians is pollution (again because part of their life cycle is spent completely in water and even after that their skin is porous). While factors like global warming, UV radiation, etc. are no doubt important, the trend seems to be pollution being a major factor.

      A note to my third point - you are almost as bad as Creationist "scientists." You say amphibians should "evolve," but you fundamentally don't understand how evolution works. It takes time for a species to do so and moreover, it has to respond to environmental conditions (changes in the environment, in predators or prey), not to pollution.

      Fourth, amphibians are hugely important in human science. The chemicals they produce, the aspects of embryonic life they can teach us, and the clues they might give us to the move that fish made onto land is of large scientific importance. Not to mention the fact that a number of problems now affecting amphibians is sure to (if it hasn't already - it would seem harder to gauge with completely aquatic life than it would with amphibians) be a problem for fish and other scientifically and commercially important wildlife.

    • by jandersen (462034) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:51AM (#25609865)

      The rule for species survival is simple: adapt or die. There are historical events of much greater scale and effect than this global climate change will be.

      The idiocy of this statement is beyond belief. Oh yes, it is very natural that species die out, just like it is natural for people to die when they get a nuclear missile in the head. That doesn't exonerate us from being the main if not the only cause for the current mass extinction. Amphibians have been around far longer than both mammals and reptiles - they have lived through several mass extinctions already, so they are clearly able to adapt. Which means that when they can't in the present situation, there may be cause for concern.

      And your idea that historical events can be more significant than climate change and the collapse of the ecosystem reveals a staggering lack of insight. Do you think that humanity isn't part of nature, somehow? That we can breathe without air and eat without food? Ecosystems are intimately connected, and when crucial parts disappear, they collapse. And then we lose out too.

      The sad truth is that we humans throughout our existence have have had a major, negative impact on nature. Just compare the diversity of species in areas where no humans live, with what we find in cultivated fields. Or look at what happend in the fall-out zone around Chernobyl: People evacuated, and suddenly the bio-diversity shoots up dramatically; there's even wild boars there now - and that is in an area with high levels of radioactive pollution.

      To sum it up: we are fishing the seas dry, we are shaving the rainforests away, we pollute and waste resources like there is no tomorrow - and I suppose there isn't likely to be one either, the way we go about things - and one day we won't be able to do it any more; I wonder how muc comfort people like you will find in your words about "adapt or die". Right now there is enough food to feed everybody, but that depends on being able to maintain the current levels of fishing, and the current intensity of agriculture - which in turn depends on massive amountds of synthetic fertiliser, insecticides, growth regulators, herbicides etc. Which in turn depends on our access to cheap energy.

      We can choose one of the following: we can continue as usual, steadily increasing our numbers and our use of resources. When they run out, we will probably be living in a world where there are little other than our unsustainable, energy intensive agriculture; few fish in the seas, few animals on land, no natural forests etc. But lots of people, who are now facing starvation. Or we can change our ways, preserve nature, stop wasting resources on stupid crap, reverse population growth etc; and maybe we won't end up in quite as grim a situation.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:46AM (#25610343) Journal

      If only it were that simple.

      1. Evolution takes time.

      If you don't have damn good DNA repair mechanisms, different cells in your body change randomly to do different things than what's needed, and you die. (E.g., of cancer.) So there's an upper cap on how often mutations can happen, which puts an upper cap on how fast you can evolve. Heck, even small-ish evolutions in tens of thousands of years are called accelerated evolution.

      We're talking about "since 1970" here, which isn't even a blip at evolution scales. _No_ species ever evolved in 38 years.

      2. Evolution really works like in the joke about the guys camping, and one of the guys putting on his sports shoes when they see a pissed off tiger: you don't have to outrun the tiger, you have to outrun the other guy. You don't have to be the fastest gazelle, you just have to outrun the slowest when the lions drop by.

      What I'm indirectly getting at is that it worked in situations where there was a slow changing equilibrium between hunter and prey, or between species and environment. On the whole, the species still has to be survivable in the short run. It doesn't work for "bang, you're dead!" situations. And normally they do get that short term survivability. Even a species whose become relatively unfit, gets breaks as its lowering numbers also causes the predator population to drop, and buys the prey some more time. Or viceversa, a relatively unfit predator gets a break as the prey over-multiplies and eventually it gets enough of a meal even from sick prey or corpses.

      The natural selection will then keep culling from the lower end, and over millions of years, the species gets better.

      No species can evolve into something better if you keep hunting it into extinction within decades, or dump poison into its water, or cut down its habitat and replace it with a parking lot. Or if you keep hunting it past the point where predator-prey equilibrium would have allowed it to rebound, that's it, really. Game over.

      3. While I sorta see your point about climate change,

      A) it doesn't apply for situations when we pollute a place overnight, or when we cause an eutrophication and the algae bloom suffocates everything else

      B) you also have to remember that climate change is a bit over-sold these days. It's the #1 best selling sin, and _everything_ gets blamed on it first. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but that it does get blamed for more than it actually caused.

      In this case, we don't _know_ whether these frogs died because of climate change or, say, because of pollution. As more and more third world and developing countries industrialize, they pollute more and more. And again, let's not forget that while the carbon cult is obsessed with CO2 only, early unregulated industry puts out a lot more immediately poisonous stuff. Both in the air _and_ in the water, which, as mentioned, is the amphibians' problem: they depend on both.

      Seriously, half the world still doesn't have any filters on their factories, or any other environment protection, or still uses lead in its pipes and gasoline. You start worrying about the quality of air when you already have other more stringent QOL components covered. When you're dirt poor, you care more about getting food, clean water, medicine, and a job. As long as even those are hit and miss, or in a lot of places more miss than hit, you don't give a fuck about that factory dumping toxic stuff into the air or water. Lead in the air (e.g., from leaded gasoline) might affect you later, while lack of food will kill you right now.

      As little as a new factory starting production, can poison the water of several species over night. Sure, someone out there will scream about all the CO2 from it, as if that were all that could possibly ever matter, and in the long run maybe it even is, but it will be the other chemicals that kill in the short run. Or if that factory produces fertilizers, again, you _could_ worry about the CO2 it produces, but that's an eutrophication event waiting to happen,

  • So, pools of water didn't dry up prior to global warming? Frogs and salamanders didn't die prior to all this? Is there any animal population from humans to flies that have not gone through expansion and contraction?

    • Re:Pffft... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:03AM (#25608851)

      Expansion is what is causing the contraction of numbers in Yellowstone. Yellowstone itself is a super volcano and its magma has been pushing the surface up for a very long time, heating the ground, air and water around it. They have literally found fish cooked in the water around the park in recent years and not geyser water. Trees have died after having their roots cooked. The heat from the rising magma there far exceeds anything global warming could do in that vicinity. If it ever erupts again there will likely be widespread destruction from the eruption followed by some global cooling.

      Yellowstone would not be a good example to use when blaming global warming for dried up pools there, though perhaps not totally unrelated. TFA used it for an example of a location with dead salamanders etc in dried out pools without mentioning the more likely cause being the super volcano heating everything above it, very poor form indeed.

    • Re:Pffft... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:30AM (#25608985)
      People die of natural causes all the time, therefore murder never happens, right? The overwhelming scientific consensus it that the warming is proceeding much faster than in the past and that this caused at least in part by human activity. If you have strong evidence to the contrary please contact your local oil company, they will be only too happy to help you get it published.
      • Re:Pffft... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bcwright (871193) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:21AM (#25609749)

        The overwhelming scientific consensus it that the warming is proceeding much faster than in the past and that this caused at least in part by human activity.

        The earth has experienced many periods of warming and cooling even within historic times, let alone during geologic time. Many of these warming and cooling periods were actually fairly rapid; the earth's climate could be called a metastable system that often experiences fairly rapid change between a number of more stable states. It's just simply untrue that the speed of recent climate change is unprecedented.

        That said, what I think you meant to say is that warming is proceeding much faster than in the recent past - and with that minor edit, that's quite true. The prevailing scientific opinion is that human activity is at least partly to blame, possibly helping to accelerate and amplify a natural cyclical change into a warmer state.

        But on the other hand, global warming has not yet had a major effect on most temperate and tropical habitats (as opposed to arctic and alpine habitats). For most amphibian loss, it's necessary to look at other causes - which, FWIW, is all that the parent article was saying.

  • by AmazingRuss (555076) on Monday November 03, 2008 @01:46AM (#25608757)

    ...and it is filled with concrete and hairless apes.

  • by penguin_dance (536599) on Monday November 03, 2008 @01:54AM (#25608797)

    Biologists at the University of California, San Diego, have shown that amphibians are the first to respond to environmental changes, thanks to their sensitivity to both air and water.

    So maybe we're seeing why the dinosaurs died out. They were too sensitive to environment change. They couldn't adapt to the changes in climate and died.

    The article starts out blaming man and herbicides, but then has to conclude that even areas free from herbicides, such as national parks "provide no refuge." So that is blamed on global warming (no doubt man-made), causing the ponds to dry out. Neither of these are supplemented with facts, but is all speculative. Frogs and salamanders are dying, so we must be causing it.

    Even though we may want to, there is no way we can save every species from extinction. We talk time and again about survival of the fittest in science class, yet we can't seem to acknowledge that species must adapt or die. Animal species that are hardy will thrive. Those who are not will not. We could have the perfect ecosystem for frogs and salamanders, and that would threaten some other species that found the weather too damp or warm to thrive. We blame ourselves for everything, when in fact there's no evidence that, if we all vanished tomorrow, animals wouldn't continue to die out as they always have.

    • by AaronLawrence (600990) * on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:17AM (#25608901)

      If we cause the climate and environment to change too quickly, no species gets a chance to adapt. It takes at least thousands, probably millions of years for species to actually adapt.

      So, it's more likely we will kill off almost all species leaving just the small number that by sheer luck can cope with widely diverse conditions... like cockroaches.

      I don't see what there is to argue about. Clearly, species are going extinct in great numbers, it's largely due to us, and most species are not adapting.

      • by delt0r (999393)
        Frak global warming. Try habitat removal via farming. Thats where almost all the extinctions from man have come from. Also there is evidence that some of the historic climate changes where in fact very rapid. The current predictions are for about 2C (4C max) change over 100 years, thats not so fast.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If the die-offs of amphibians like salamanders and frogs indicate trouble ahead for mammals, as a mammal I feel it's important to pay attention to what's going on.

      It's not about blame, it's about survival. You seem to think that we humans are above that - the causers, not the victims. I'm not really that interested in vanishing tomorrow, frankly, so maybe it's worth exploring how we can keep that from happening.

    • Indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by copponex (13876) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:18AM (#25608911) Homepage

      Let's say you had a group of tool wielding apes who had advanced to such a high level of technology that their activities changed the environment, and upset millions of years of evolution and balance. Despite detecting this early on, they failed to adapt the way the transport themselves, the amount of natural resources they needlessly consume, and did nothing to change course.

      Let's say those apes did not survive the correction that the environment made to re-establish equilibrium. Wouldn't that be a tragedy.

      You can make all the excuses you want for yourself, but your children don't exist on rhetoric, they exist on planet earth. If you're even willing to take a chance on continuing the path that has led to the decline of every single system of life on earth since the industrial revolution, you're mad, or a fool, or both.

      The epidemic of cancer is certainly proof that something that we are doing to the planet it making it and us very ill, let alone the undeniable evidence, built up over the last fifty years, that wherever industrial developments are, vibrant ecosystems are not.

      • by Carewolf (581105)

        Take allergies or obesity, but not cancer. While we are still finding new minor causes to cancer, we do know the primary and most significant cause: Old age. This is why it was less common earlier and why it is still much less common in less developed countries. There is no evidence that among young people cancer is any more common today than 200 years ago.

      • Cancer 'epidemic' (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RudeIota (1131331) on Monday November 03, 2008 @04:05AM (#25609451) Homepage

        The epidemic of cancer is certainly proof that something that we are doing to the planet it making it and us very ill, let alone the undeniable evidence, built up over the last fifty years, that wherever industrial developments are, vibrant ecosystems are not.

        I don't think the basis of your argument deserves the kind of consideration that your point itself does.

        The industrial junk we've been pumping out can't be good; I don't think you'll find many people that are pro-pollution... The problem with your argument is studies show cancer has been decreasing for decades -- not just mortality, but also the diagnosis and development of. Considering detection has certainly improved and pollution has certainly NOT improved, it should be on the rise in a big way. Why the discrepancy? It did increase during the 70s and 80s, but was that because of better detection rates? It is easy to write it off as such, but who knows... I don't -- and neither do you.

        Unfortunately, that's the problem. We don't have much reliable data to follow because the data itself has been a work in progress for decades. For example, whether or not you believe they have an agenda, the National Cancer Institute [cancer.gov] shows this downward trend, and it continues. I'm sure if you went back to 1930 or something, cancer rates per capita were far, far lower though; however, you cannot get accurate numbers because many people would have not been treated or improperly diagnosed. It's pretty easy to fudge the numbers and statistics to indeed lie.

        As I'm sure you know though, the problem with 'the evidence' is it is difficult to concretely prove... either way. There are just too many variables to take in account with living organisms to do meaningful, empirical tests that prove something without a shadow of a doubt. Sadly, not many people will listen until such links can be made unequivocally.

        In short, I wouldn't use cancer as your 'undeniable evidence', but your point/intentions are good and I personally agree with you, although probably to a lesser degree.

    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:45AM (#25609069)
      We blame ourselves for everything, when in fact there's no evidence that, if we all vanished tomorrow, animals wouldn't continue to die out as they always have..

      No, but there is evidence that since humans came to the scene, and especially since the industrial age, the species are going extinct at a rate from 100s to 1000s of times greater than before.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by uncmathguy (936555)
        I really don't know much at all about this topic, but I would like to. Specifically, I would love to know what sort of evidence there is that "since the industrial age, the species are going extinct at a rate from 100s to 1000s times greater than before."

        It seems unlikely to me that we can have proper estimates on the number of species going extinct prior to the start of the industrial age. How can one use fossil evidence to distinguish between species. And if we are using eye-witness testimony, sure
    • Correlation doesn't prove causation, but it most certainly does imply causation.

      In this case, our world ecosystem is clearly screwed up in any number of ways because of our actions. Also, amphibians are dying out. It's a pretty good bet we're the cause.

      • correlationisnotcausation
        correlationisnotcausation
        correlationisnotcausation

        I swear, half of the people who write tags on stories on this site would leave their hand on a red hot hotplate to burn whilst arguing that the pain in their hand correlates to the hotplate being red hot, but that clearly as correlation != causation we should consider the other theories about burning hands which are given less airtime by the ignorant media, who do not understand deductive science as well as we do.

        correlationisnotcaus

        • by linuxrocks123 (905424) on Monday November 03, 2008 @04:09AM (#25609477) Homepage Journal

          Since you apparently don't understand the difference, I'll spell it out for you:

          You put your hand on the hot plate. It burns.
          Experimental variable: location of hand
          Extraneous variables: none
          Valid conclusion (if it's reproducible): Moving your hand to the hot plate caused it to burn.

          Amphibians are dying out.
          Experimental variable: "Global warming"
          Extraneous variables: f***ing everything
          Valid conclusion: none

          Now, this isn't a perfect argument: you can do things like argue that all the extraneous variables are obviously not really important given what we know about ecology or whatever -- but it certainly demands a more reasoned response than ignorant mocking.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by conureman (748753)

            RTFA
            RTFA
            RTFA

            The problem seems to be chemicals affecting hormonal response, pH change causing fungal plagues, and excessive loss of habitat. Climate change merely increases the habitat destruction. The pH induced fungal plagues currently eradicating some of our plant species don't get much press, IMO that may be the larger problem. Here on /. the perception problem is observable, clearly some of Y'ALL aren't paying attention.

    • by cryptoluddite (658517) on Monday November 03, 2008 @03:08AM (#25609197)

      We talk time and again about survival of the fittest in science class, yet we can't seem to acknowledge that species must adapt or die. Animal species that are hardy will thrive.

      Also, you know what the problem with this is? The ones that are going to survive aren't going to be cute cuddly little puppy dogs. They're going to be cockroaches that can see heat and that shoot molecular acid on you while you're sleeping. They're going to be bird-eating spiders. Octopi that walk on land and reshape/recolor themselves to look like a tree or boulder... until they pounce and eat you.

      You know, basically we'll all be living in Australia.

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:23AM (#25610527)

        Also, you know what the problem with this is? The ones that are going to survive aren't going to be cute cuddly little puppy dogs. They're going to be cockroaches that can see heat and that shoot molecular acid on you while you're sleeping. They're going to be bird-eating spiders. Octopi that walk on land and reshape/recolor themselves to look like a tree or boulder... until they pounce and eat you.

        Yes, but there might also be a downside.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Valdrax (32670)

      The article starts out blaming man and herbicides, but then has to conclude that even areas free from herbicides, such as national parks "provide no refuge."

      What areas free from pesticides? Maybe you didn't read the article:

      "Atrazine is one of the more mobile and persistent pesticides being widely applied. In fact, residues have been found in remote, nonagricultural areas, such as the poles."

      Places that are "protected from pollution" are not free of it. You'd be surprised just how much pollution there is in national parks.

      So that is blamed on global warming (no doubt man-made), causing the ponds to dry out. Neither of these are supplemented with facts, but is all speculative. Frogs and salamanders are dying, so we must be causing it.

      Two problems with these statements:

      1) A problem may have multiple causes.

      It's a widespread mental disease of today that people demand that experts must find THE source of the problem and fix IT. The three problems identified in the article are all major, separate contributors to amphibian decline. Each one

    • by caitsith01 (606117) on Monday November 03, 2008 @03:33AM (#25609309) Journal

      Even though we may want to, there is no way we can save every species from extinction. We talk time and again about survival of the fittest in science class, yet we can't seem to acknowledge that species must adapt or die. Animal species that are hardy will thrive. Those who are not will not.

      The problem with this type of reasoning is that we have evolved to a stage where we can "beat" any other species. Human-level intelligence has transformed evolutionary competition into a straight out massacre. We also have the ability to change the environment in ways which are effectively catacylsmic from the point of view of evolution - if you radically alter the environment over the course of a few decades or even centuries, then there is nowhere near enough time for a typical vertebrate to adapt via natural selection to a hostile environment.

      If we are indeed affecting the climate, as seems likely, then I find it plausible to think that we could quite easily end up wiping out most species on earth, save for a few super-hardy ones. Unfortunately we will probably survive ourselves, which hardly seems fair. If you want to compete until the end, I hope you like the sound of a future filled with cockroaches, feral cats, rabbits, rats and flies because those are the types of animals which will thrive in a man made environmental apocalypse.

      I would like to think that if we are intelligent enough to realise that we have the power to exterminate the other varieties of life on earth, then we are also intelligent enough to realise why we shouldn't (including both cold rational reasons and aesthetic/moral reasons).

      Do you really believe that it is ok on any level if, say, every last tiger dies as a result of human impact on the environment? What if we go out and shoot them all? Because we could, and it sounds like you're saying that would be good and proper, or at least 'evolutionarily correct' in some way.

    • For the life of me, I don't see what the controversy is all about... you can listen to FOX News or the scientific leaders of the planet who almost to a person (that means for the most part any scientist not working a for a major fossil fuel producer), that the world is in the throws of monumental change. In fact, the question is no longer if, but how much, and by when will it be something capable of dirrupting human existence.

      The changes map almost precisely to the amount of greenhouse gas there is in the atmosphere. The system is complex, and once you pass the tipping point change will amplify. Global albido has changed. The chemistry of the oceans has changed. The chemistry of the atmosphere has changed. There are more cloud, more water vapor (itself a greenhouse gas), and less ice on the planet. There are more floods, stronger hurricanes and tornadoes, more droughts, and the weather is becoming more irratic. All of these changes are hostile to higher life forms. Ultimately these changes will prove most hostile to a sustainable humanity.

      We have not yet transcended our biological base. When we loose the ability to irrigate fields, feed livestock, then feed ourselves, billions of us will go away. We are at the top of the food pyramid, we are an apex species, and it is always the apex species which go away first in a mass die-off. Of course our big brains may help us cope with the change, it might even save us from extinction, but I can tell you now, it won't be a world as nice, or as benevolent as the one we have today. That and all the species that we rely on for everything from pollination, to pleasing our eyes and ears are going to be gone. It would be as easier to live on mars than to live on the planet we are in the process of making, and we won't have the means to live on mars any time soon.

      This isn't about loosing one species. We are already now disappearing thousands of species a year. Most of these are invertebrates. But once we get to higher life forms we need to be concerned about where homo sapien falls on that list of threatened species. There are maybe 1,500 cheetahs in the wild left on the planet. A few hundred tigers. Several dozen snow leopards. Once you turn 10,000 acres of rainforest into dessert sand, everything that lived there from the microbes in the soil up are gone forever. We are biotic. We cannot escape the destiny of life disappearing if we allow virtually all higher life to disapper from the planet, we will amost certainly be one of the species to vanish.

      Being we are an engineering race, we may still have time to fix our mess. However the time is slipping fast and we haven't shown much proclivity for wisdom or awareness on a global scale. We need to address the issues that face us now. In very much the same way America has turned itself into a financial vaccum, we are on the verge of turning the world into a vacuum for life. Leaders asleep at the wheel, a populace so intranced by the day to day process of making a living, and fulfilling ever growing wants, that one hardly notices that we are using up the world, and are on the verge of making the world unfit for consumption by humans or any other higher life form.

      The information is freely available. The science at this point in the game is virtually incontrovertible. The politicians and the pundits can debate all they want. The conservative and liberal can fight. The religious can pray endlessly. None of that will alter a single leaf falling. We have now a vanishingly small window of opportunity. The wise man would act now.

  • by GiovanniZero (1006365) on Monday November 03, 2008 @01:55AM (#25608801) Homepage Journal
    http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1012-frogs.html [mongabay.com] Strange, and I thought the big threat was coming from the fungi that are devastating species. Good thing they tied the threat to global warming, now we can all do something about it! ::smirk::
    • by Valdrax (32670) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:36AM (#25609019)

      But even the containment of Chytrid might not be enough to save amphibians, which face a barrage of other threats including pollution, the introduction of alien species, habitat destruction, over-collection, and climate change.

      Gosh, I guess we shouldn't worry at all then! I mean, if Chytrid is screwing them over, it's not like we should bother with climate change. I mean, why put out a cancer patient on fire? The cancer's going to kill 'em anyway.

  • by catmistake (814204) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:02AM (#25608839) Journal

    EXTINCTION CRISIS FOR AMPHIBIANS [sfgate.com]

    this time its not our fault... but maybe we can help them (or... is it not nice to fool with Mother Nature?)

    • From your own article
      "While the spread of the disease is a major new threat to all amphibians, the scientists reported that the greatest current danger to every threatened species is still the loss of habitat as cities and suburbs expand, streams and ponds and wetlands give way to the needs of farmers, and forest lands are destroyed. "

    • It's both! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Valdrax (32670) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:45AM (#25609073)

      In addition to what the previous person responding to your post mentioned, it's worth noting that some researchers think the most likely origin of the spread of this fungus to a wide range of habitats is due to widespread use of a research frog species from Africa, though there is some evidence that puts some doubt on that. [cornell.edu]

      Another prominent theory is mentioned in the article you linked:

      In Costa Rica's Cloud Forest Preserve of the Tropical Science Center, biologist J. Alan Pounds and his colleagues recently reported the total disappearance of the Monteverde harlequin frog, along with one golden toad species -- caused, he said in the journal Nature, by their increased susceptibility to chytrid disease as rising global temperatures have weakened their ability to resist the toxin.

      In other words, chytrid is likely to either be an invasive species introduced around the world by human actions or a species that amphibians were previously able to resist before rising temperatures weakened them. Or both. Either way, saying "this time its [sic] not our fault" is disingenuous at best.

    • by Tranvisor (250175) on Monday November 03, 2008 @03:14AM (#25609225) Homepage

      The cause of worldwide amphibian population declines is the Chytrid Fungus. However many do think that global warming is making the situation happen faster and to a more serious degree. Here is some quick links if you want to read more on the subject ...

      From Nat Geo:

      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080401-frog-fungus.html [nationalgeographic.com]

      The NY Times:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/04/science/04frog.html [nytimes.com]

      The CDC:

      http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol10no12/03-0804.htm [cdc.gov]

  • Impressive! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by narcberry (1328009) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:34AM (#25609009) Journal

    Is there anything global warming can't do?

  • Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:37AM (#25609023)
    How did amphibians survive the much greater temperature swings in Earth's history? They've been around for a long time. Were there partial extinctions and then they rediversified?
  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Monday November 03, 2008 @02:52AM (#25609115) Journal

    I'm a pretty green-leaning person and the last thing I want to do is deprive people who have devoted the best years of their life studying herpetology from getting grant money to make a living, but I think amphibian decline research is bordering dangerously on public relations BS pseudo-science.

    Amphibian populations are notoriously hard to measure accurately. Populations rise and fall wildly. When you go out to do your first sample, if you're not careful there's often a heavy bias to picking the area with the highest population, so when you do your followup study and that pond has returned to a normal population, it looks like you've detected population decline. That's not to say amphibians aren't wildly vulnerable to all the usual things humans do to an environment: drain it, pave it, spray it. But rather than get half the environmentally-sensitive population panicking randomly about crisis, I'd rather see 1% or 0.1% of the population deeply educated in field biology as serious hobby, keeping long-term consistent records of observations and measurements.

    ( by the way, the best way to completely destroy a long term population study of a pond is to dredge it and add fish to make it "look more natural" )

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      Amphibian populations are notoriously hard to measure accurately. Populations rise and fall wildly. When you go out to do your first sample, if you're not careful there's often a heavy bias to picking the area with the highest population, so when you do your followup study and that pond has returned to a normal population, it looks like you've detected population decline.

      See, now that's the first intelligent argument I've seen for not worrying as much about the problem. Is there any way to get a more accurate sampling of amphibian species, and is there a way to control for the noise, and is there any reason to presume your more likely to overcount population initially than undercount it?

  • They're only a part of the Holocene extinction event [wikipedia.org].

  • Send some of our remaining frogs to Australia, say, in exchange for some Koalas, maybe. I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong.

  • From the gripping hand global warming begin turning huge expanses of northern <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiga>taiga</a> forests to wetlands. Aren't wetlands an ideal environment for amphibians ?
  • Bufo sp. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by viridari (1138635) on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:43AM (#25610637)

    I recall as a kid how my grandmother's yard was littered with American toads. She was certainly in the right place for wildlife. Right next to a state park. Two acre pond in the back yard. Woods all around. The lawn seemed to dance as I pushed the mower back and forth. If I saw anything less than a few dozen toads while mowing the front lawn, something was wrong.

    My grandmother is gone and my parents have since moved into that house. Now it's a treat for my kids if I can find a toad or two there.

    My own home has much the same problem. I'm on a wooded lot, backed up against a city greenway with a stream in the back yard. There is plenty of habitat for the toads, plenty of food. Every now and then we'll see one. The neighbors who have been here 30 years say that during the summer the houses would have treefrogs all over them. I have yet to see a single treefrog. And taking my kids back in the greenway to look for salamanders, we have yet to find a single one while flipping over rocks and rotten logs.

    I still have my doubts about man's part in changing the climate. But something is wrong. The amphibians are like the canary in the coal mine. And it doesn't take an expert to see that they are disappearing fast.

    • Anecdotes (Score:3, Funny)

      by conureman (748753)

      You realize, don't you, that without scientifically rigorous documentation, your observation of mere physical reality means nothing to the willful ignorati. I too, have observed the same phenomena. I miss toads.

  • Dining Out? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Monday November 03, 2008 @09:15AM (#25610803) Homepage Journal
    Did anybody else read that as "1/3 of amphibians dining out"? I was wondering how so many of them could afford to do that, when most of us are having to cut back.

Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"

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