Climate change and Australia's frogs: how much do we need to worry?
Three aspects of the biology of anurans indicate that climate change could have a significant impact on these vertebrates: a) they are ectotherms and ambient temperatures can strongly influence their activity, b) a permeable skin requires them to have regular access to sources of moisture, and c) most species require free water for larval development. Research from the northern hemisphere suggests climatic changes have already impacted amphibians through changes in breeding phenology, loss of breeding sites, changes in moisture regimes and a possible increased impact of disease. Such impacts have yet to be tested for or detected in Australia's species, which are adapted to different environments and have different ancestries. Species of most concern are narrow range, montane species with unique breeding strategies and that occupy consistently moist environments. Recent predictive modeling however, has suggested that species with much broader distributions could experience significant range reductions by 2070, mainly as a result of a reduction in seasonal rainfall patterns. Changes in the frequency and regularity of rainfall may result in detrimental shifts in pond hydroperiod and this could negatively impact many species. Further research is required to determine just which species are at significant risk from predicted climate changes and generate discussion on appropriate adaptive strategies.
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