Nav: Home

Drier mountains pose a double whammy for cold-adapted amphibians, says SFU study

January 25, 2019

A species of frog endemic to the Pacific Northwest faces a 50 per cent increase in the probability of extinction by the 2080s due to climate change, according to a new study published by SFU researchers in the Ecological Society of America.

The mountain-dwelling Cascades frog thrives in extreme climatic conditions, ranging from dozens of feet of snow in winter to temperatures in excess of 90°F in summer. Cascades frogs are explosive breeders and their role as predators of flying insects is critical to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

SFU biologist Wendy Palen, along with co-authors Mike Adams of the United States Geological Survey and Maureen Ryan and Amanda Kissel of Conservation Science Partners, set out to understand the effects of climate change on these unique amphibians.

Specifically, they aimed to assess how the warmer and drier temperatures occurring with climate change affect the survival of two distinct aspects of the frog's life cycle: in the aquatic stage where the frogs develop as tadpoles in shallow ponds, and in the terrestrial environment stage where they live as adults.

During the frogs' aquatic stage, the researchers evaluated whether warmer temperatures would increase food production and result in larger, healthier frogs upon metamorphosis, or whether entire generations of frogs would die in years when warmer, drier winters lead to ponds that dry quickly, stranding tadpoles before metamorphosis.

For the terrestrial stage, they evaluated whether the milder winters of climate change would present a warm welcome and lead to higher survival of adult frogs.

The species has been tracked in Olympic National Park's Sol Duc watershed for approximately 15 years. In fact, Palen, now a professor of biology at SFU, was a graduate student at the University of Washington when she began tagging hundreds of frogs with tiny microchips.

More recently Kissel, a lead scientist at Conservation Science Partners, continued the work by monitoring more than 50 ponds that the frogs use for breeding. She tracked water levels and the timing of metamorphosis to identify how often ponds dried before the frogs could emerge.

The team found that currently, up to a quarter of the tadpoles are stranded and die each year. Applying projections from hydrologists from the universities of Washington and Notre Dame, the researchers predict that nearly 40 per cent of the tadpoles could be lost by the 2080s as a result of dry ponds.

The results from studying the frog's terrestrial stage were even more surprising. Data showed that thinner snow-packs and warmer summer temperatures actually reduced adult survival.

Taking both trends together, the researchers forecast that the Cascades frog will have a 62 per cent chance of extinction risk by the 2080s.

Kissel says, "This is a worst-case scenario, where a frog that largely occurs inside some of our most protected landscapes will be at high risk of extinction by the end of this century."

The study supports an emerging picture of climate change in the Pacific Northwest where, as a result of warmer temperatures, precipitation will fall more often as rain rather than snow, leading to longer, drier summers with compounding negative consequences for many wildlife species.

Simon Fraser University

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.