Korean scientists have recently discovered chytrid fungus in introduced bullfrogs in South Korea, although so far, this does not appear to be having an impact on South Korean amphibians. There are thirteen frog and five salamander species in the country, which boats 65 percent of natural forest cover.

Pierre Fidenci, President of Endangered Species International (ESI), talks about the state of amphibians in South Korea in an interview with Mongabay.com, and there is an additional report on The Korean Times web site. In his interview on mongabay.com, Pierre also says:

We put our focus depending on the degree of urgency (not all endangered species have the same degree of extinction, some are much more threatened), our experience and expertise, and the location (we tend to go to places where no other conservation NGOs work). We focus on endangered species found in various types of habitat and serving as protecting umbrella to other endangered species and various wild habitat.

In a similar vein, Amphibian Ark staff have been using an “amphibian species prioritization” process, which is now known as a conservation action planning process  to work with amphibian experts around the world to document their collective knowledge, to produce ordered lists of conservation action required to help save threatened species.

Add a ravenous little fish to the “gang” that is wiping out amphibian populations. The other members of the gang are chytrd fungus, habitat loss, pollution, and global warming. Read about the tadpole gulping mosquitofish in this story from San Mateo County Times. Excerpt:

The scrappy little mosquitofish, the pit bull of ichthyology and the region’s leading defense against West Nile virus, is a savior to insect-infested waters.

Unless you’re a frog.

Yes, the fish dines on larval mosquitoes, as intended. But scientists have learned it also has an appetite for the tadpoles of frogs, toads and other amphibians — including the threatened red-legged frog and the endangered Santa Cruz long-toed salamander.

We’ve been talking about at least one-third of amphibian species disappearing in our lifetime unless emergency measures are taken. Now this: scientists with the Zoological Society of London predicting that half of Europe’s amphibian species are en route to extinction by 2050, primarily because of habitat destruction, global warming and the chytrid fungus. Amphibian Ark patron Sir David Attenborough was on hand at the announcement. This is the first time I’ve noticed a specific year mentioned re: impending extinctions. We’re 42 years away from that doomsdate. There is a plan to avert the mass extinction. It’s called Amphibian Ark.

 An exceprt from the Zoological Society of London Web site:

“Amphibians are the lifeblood of many environments, playing key roles in the functions of ecosystems, and it is both extraordinary and terrifying that in just a few decades the world could lose half of all these species,” commented Sir David Attenborough. “I am delighted to be working with the Zoological Society of London to promote amphibian conservation, in the hope that we will not be hearing the dying croaks of these amazing creatures in the years to come.”

When a world leader assesses what’s happening to biodiversity, announces a huge commitment to preventing further loss, and then says, “Nothing less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake” — well, it’s a good day for our planet.  Story pasted below and linked here.

Biodiversity: German pledges 500 million euros at UN talks

 

BONN, Germany (AFP) — Germany on Wednesday pledged half a billion euros (785 million dollars) to help defend threatened forests and called on others to join its effort as a UN conference on biodiversity engaged top gear.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country wanted to set down a “very clear marker” on attaining the UN’s Millennium goal of braking biodiversity loss by 2010.

“The Federal government, between 2009 and 2012, will earmark an additional amount of 500 million euros,” Merkel told the meeting.

“We want to use this money in those areas where forests and other ecosystems are under threat and to find quick solutions for conserving them.”

From 2013, Germany will stump up half a billion dollars, annually, she promised, but added, “obviously, Germany cannot shoulder this enormous global burden alone.”

The three-day “high-level” section of the conference is gathering 87 ministers, with the goal of crafting a new global deal on preserving Earth’s wildlife.

“Noting less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake,” Merkel told the 6,000 representatives from 191 countries attending the meeting, launched 11 days earlier.

Participants at the conference are hoping to establish a roadmap towards negotiating, by 2010, an “Access and Benefit Sharing” regulatory framework governing access to genetic resources and sharing the benefits from their use.

Amid sharp debate on the issue, Merkel called for “striking fair balance between rich and poor countries” in the economic exploitation of biodiversity.

The UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) was established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso underlined the links between species loss and climate change, and said the world must see protecting biodiversity as an economic imperative.

“Biodiversity underpins our economies … and we cannot afford to deplete our public capital in this way,” he said.

Barroso singled out deforestation as one of the main causes of species loss, and said the European Union was reviewing measures to combat illegal logging, and trade in illegally harvested forest products.

But environment groups have criticised the EU for sitting on a draft law that would ban the importation of such products into Europe.

“The law is finished and ready to go, but because of commercial and business lobbying, the Commission has not gone forward,” said Saskia Richartz, policy director for biodiversity at Greenpeace.

Scientists say that species are becoming extinct at a dizzying rate — between 100 and 1,000 times the natural pace of extinction.

One in four mammals, one bird in eight, one third of all amphibians and 70 percent of plants are under threat.

Development economist Pavan Sukhdev has handed the conference a preliminary report in which the lost of the benefits of biodiversity are put at 3.1 trillion dollars a year, or six percent of the planet’s gross national product (GNP).

Group of Eight environment ministers met in Kobe, Japan, earlier this week, issuing a joint statement acknowledging the fundamental importance of biodiversity and spelling out their support for the Millennium Development Goal of reaching a “significant reduction” in species loss by the end of this decade.

Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser praised Merkel for sending “a very strong and important signal” for reaching a strong agreement in Bonn.

He called on other industrialised countries to pitch in, and estimated around 30 billion euros (47.1 billion dollars) a year were needed to finance the protection of ancient forests.

“Death is not an acceptable exit strategy.”  

I overheard this on a US Airways flight from Charlotte to St. Louis tonight:

The line was uttered by one insurance executive to another, in the row right behind me. The more knowledgeable of the two was explaining that when a “client” (that’s you or me) takes out a loan on his life insurance, he must pay off the loan within seven years. This particular insurance company won’t allow the loan term to be stretched any longer; otherwise, the odds increase that the person will die before the debt is fully paid. That would mean that the balance of the loan would have to be paid from the life insurance policy’s death benefit. And this insurance company doesn’t want that to happen. Hence, the “exit strategy” of paying the debt after one dies is “unacceptable.”

Well, thank you, insurance executive. You inspired an Earth Day post for the frogs. 

If death is not an acceptable exit strategy in the world of life insurance loans, then extinction is an unacceptable exit strategy for the 2,000-plus species of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians that are projected to disappear in our lifetime. If unchecked, this will be the most significant loss of animal life since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

It would be easy to follow the example of the actuarians and simply present these frogs with a contract stipulating that they have to fix their problem in seven years. But frogs wouldn’t understand all the legal jargon. And, anyway, they really can’t be expected to get themselves out of the pickle jar we’ve put them in.

The truth is, we’re the ones who have taken out a massive loan. By living the way we live, we’ve been borrowing against the future sustainability of the planet and the creatures that live on it. And as frogs are regarded as the canaries in the coal mine for our planet’s health, their looming mass exodus has given us our clearest warning yet that we have to pay down our loan, and quickly.

So, on this Earth Day, think about signing a seven-year contract with yourself — and for the frogs — to fix all that you can.

A huge part of the debt to amphibians could be paid off in that timeframe. There is a no-nonsense plan, called Amphibian Ark, that will place the 500 most threatened species into the “protective custody” of zoos and other conservation organizations. Species are disappearing as you are reading this.

The Amphibian Ark plan will put these species into protective “arks” — i.e., biosecure containers that will:

  1. protect endangered species from environmental threats that include the frog-killing chytrid fungus, pollution, loss of habitat, and global warming

  2. help these “last frogs standing” to breed for their eventual return to the wild

  3. allow scientists to find a cure for chytrid through research conducted in the containers

  4. buy time for other conservation efforts to restore amphibian habitat around the world — so there’s a home to return to

You can sign the contract, in a way, by signing this online petition to protect amphibians. Then, stay tuned, because right after Earth Day we’re going to come back to you with a list of things you can do to save the frogs. If everybody would pick just one thing to do, it would add up to a lot. It would be like paying extra against the principal on the loan we’ve taken out.

Say it over and over to yourself: Extinction is not an acceptable exit strategy. Thanks to amphibians, we have a real opportunity to start paying off our debt. Let’s hop to it.

And, if those insurance executives are reading this, I hope I haven’t offended you. I meant no harm. In fact, we could use your talents to raise the $50-$60 million needed to complete the Amphibian Ark physical plan. Maybe you could come up with a seven-year strategy for that. :-)

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more faithful visitors of this blog (Monica Craver AKA Swamp Guardian) is asking for our help. It’s a request for us to sign a petition to protect habitat for the Northern Red-Legged Frog near Vancouver, Canada, and it points to the No. 1 threat to amphibians — loss of habitat. I often post about the amphibian chytrid fungus as a huge threat – and it is — but loss of habitat is the bigger threat.  Here’s the link to the petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/31/help-save-the-red-legged-frog (Also, don’t forget the Amphibian Ark petition.) And here is the reason why we need to sign it:

“I have had to close my website to the public because my activism to get proper protection for the Northern Red Legged Frog habitat has come under attack by mountain bikers who do not want to see the habitat closed to their riding and building activities. If they get their way, we will see more bike trails and bike traffic going through this park and critical wetland habitat. Could you please publish this petition to save the North Red-Legged Frog in North Vancouver, BC. There is over 25 acres of wetland and upland area at risk of becoming further fragmented and degraded by wheeled wreckreational activities in it. As mountain bikers come from all over the world to use the North Shore mountains to ride, this is not a local issue anymore. I need as many names as I can muster up by the end of this month. I will report afterwards if this little Red-Legged frog paradise was saved or not. “

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