Saving frogs before it's too late

May 06, 2008

With nearly one-third of amphibian species threatened with extinction worldwide, fueled in part by the widespread emergence of the deadly chytrid fungus, effective conservation efforts could not be more urgent. In a new article in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, Franco Andreone and his colleagues argue that one of the best places to focus these efforts is Madagascar, a global hotspot of amphibian diversity that shows no signs of amphibian declines—or traces of the chytrid fungus.

Protecting this amphibian treasure trove before it’s too late, the authors argue, makes Madagascar a top priority for amphibian conservation efforts. “In Madagascar,” the authors argue, “amphibian conservation efforts have the possibility of being pro-active, rather than reactive, or simply post-mortem.”

Madagascar harbors “one of the richest groups of amphibian fauna in the world,” write the authors, but this megadiversity faces significant threats. Ninety percent of the island’s original vegetation has been destroyed by human activity. Amazingly, despite the ongoing habitat destruction, no Malagasy amphibian species have been reported as extinct, though a quarter of the 220 species evaluated by the World Conservation Union are listed as threatened.

The conspicuous absence of the devastating chytrid fungus only serves to underscore the precariousness of the situation. Intensive conservation efforts here, the authors argue, could “avert an otherwise predictable catastrophic loss of biodiversity.”

Pro-active conservation programs in Madagascar are especially timely in light of the government’s stated commitment to protect its biodiversity. This political interest, sparked by a 2003 presidential announcement to triple the size of Madagascar’s network of protected areas, gave rise to multiple processes for developing conservation strategies, including the Madagascar Action Plan. All these efforts suggest very favorable conditions for protecting what the authors call “astonishing morphological and ecological diversity” in a country where intact amphibian diversity may still benefit from intensive pro-active conservation measures.

Ironically, Andreone and his colleagues argue, Madagascar’s pre-decline status could actually hinder timely conservation action. The authors urge the international conservation community to recognize the unique opportunity Madagascar presents for conserving global amphibian diversity by making the necessary investments to implement conservation initiatives. No one knows if or when the chytrid fungus may turn up on the island. The authors advocate “urgency rather than complacency” to preserve this sanctuary while we still can.

Citation: Andreone F, Carpenter AI, Cox N, du Preez L, Freeman K, et al. (2008) The challenge of conserving amphibian megadiversity in Madagascar. PLoS Biol 6(5): e118. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060118

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: New class of insecticides offers safer, more targeted mosquito control

Related Stories

Farming a threat to endangered Chinese giant salamander

Mar 12, 2015

Researchers from ZSL and the Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an, surveyed 43 farms in China and worked with the Shaanxi Province Fisheries Office to investigate the Chinese giant salamander farming industry. They found that, ...

Deadly frog fungus dates back to 1880s, studies find

Mar 04, 2015

A deadly fungus responsible for the extinction of more than 200 amphibian species worldwide has coexisted harmlessly with animals in Illinois and Korea for more than a century, a pair of studies have found.

Amphibian chytrid fungus reaches Madagascar

Feb 26, 2015

The chytrid fungus, which is fatal to amphibians, has been detected in Madagascar for the first time. This means that the chytridiomycosis pandemic, which has been largely responsible for the decimation of ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

5 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

Longer DNA fragments reveal rare species diversity

6 hours ago

A challenge in metagenomics is that the more commonly used sequencing machines generate data in short lengths, while short-read assemblers may not be able to distinguish among multiple occurrences of the ...

Scientists say polar bears won't thrive on land food

6 hours ago

A group of researchers say polar bears forced off melting sea ice will not find enough food to replace their current diet of fat-laden marine mammals such as seals, a conclusion that contradicts studies indicating ...

The vital question: Why is life the way it is?

7 hours ago

The Vital Question: Why is life the way it is? is a new book by Nick Lane that is due out on April 23rd. His question is not one for a static answer but rather one for a series of ever sharper explanations—explanations that a ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.