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Canaries In Coal Mine

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Frog Extinctions Signal Worst Of Horrors Ahead


By James Donahue


The disclosure by Science Express this month that the world’s amphibian species are going extinct seems to have been written off by the media as just another ho-hum and insignificant story. It failed to get much attention.


It should have made international headlines.


Since more than 500 scientists from over 60 nations participated in the Global Amphibian Assessment that comprised the report, it is clear that the scientific world is taking this matter seriously. And for good reason.


Amphibians are widely regarded as “canaries in the coal mine” because their permeable skin is ultra-sensitive to changes in the environment. “Amphibians are one of nature’s best indicators of overall environmental health,” explained Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.


Coal miners used canaries in the mines as a way to escape death from noxious gasses. When the canaries were found dead in their cages, the miners knew it was time to leave the mine.


The frogs are the same kind of indicator species sharing our planet with us. If the toxic air and water is killing them today, the human race can expect to meet the same fate. We are bigger creatures and not quite as sensitive as frogs so it will just take a little longer before it hits us.


Simon Stuart, senior director of the research project, warned: “Since most amphibians depend on freshwater and feel the effects of pollution before many other forms of life, including humans, their rapid decline tells us that one of Earth’s most critical life support systems is breaking down.”


During the three-year study, scientists analyzed the status of all 5,743 known amphibian species. This included frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians.


What they found is that 1,856 species, or 32 percent, are threatened with extinction, and at least 1,300 others are seriously threatened. At least nine species have already gone extinct and another 113 could not be found and also may have gone extinct.


By comparison, the group noted that 12 percent of bird species and 23 percent of all mammal species also are threatened.



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