Written by Kathy Wormald, CEO of Froglife.
Froglife is a wildlife conservation charity with a specific remit to conserve the UK’s native reptile and amphibian species and their habitats. Froglife is concerned about the impact that climate change is having on the UK’s reptile and amphibian populations. Globally, amphibians are declining at a faster rate than mammals and birds. These declines are being witnessed in the UK with Froglife research showing a 68% decline in the UK’s common toads (Bufo bufo) over a 30 year period.
There are several reasons for these declines with climate change a major contributor. All of our species are dependent on good quality habitats and reliable climate/weather conditions. The most obvious/immediate way in which the climate emergency is affecting our species is in the increasingly erratic weather we are experiencing. This year’s prolonged drought in Southern Scotland (effectively no rain through June and July when amphibians need freshwater in order for young to develop) has led to many ponds drying out too early in the season. This has resulted in mass mortality of amphibian larvae. Our own habitat monitoring in Scotland and other regions of the UK coupled with the number of enquiries we have received from people across the country about either the lack of spawn/eggs or mass mortality of amphibian larvae or tadpoles, confirms this is the case. These weather conditions have occurred a few times over the last few years.
Related to the nature emergency, our species rely heavily on insects for food, and there is international concern of severe declines in insect populations. With such a severe shortage of food sources, our species are struggling to survive, certainly this is the case at a population level, where vast numbers of insects are required to keep whole populations sustained.
Scotland has so far largely escaped the effects on amphibians of chytrid disease, but aspects of climate change, such as higher temperatures, could begin to favour the spread of the disease. Immediate and urgent action is required now to stop these devastating declines of these species as they are a central part of our ecosystem. They are also a vital food source for other wildlife including birds and small mammals and are an excellent learning tool for young children learning about full lifecycles. Most importantly, they are a crucial part of our heritage and for their intrinsic value must be conserved for future generations to enjoy.
Froglife is a proud partner of Climate Scotland.