The populations of frogs, toads, and other amphibians in the United States are declining so fast that they will disappear from half of their natural habitats in 20 years if nothing changes, the Denver Post reported.
U.S. Geological Survey officials revealed a study of 48 species at 34 sites across the country. The findings were grim: amphibians are declining at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. This is much faster than experts had previously expected. It also includes species within federally protected areas such as the Rocky Mountain National Park.
"Even in what we consider pristine areas, we are seeing amphibian decline," stated Fort Collins-based USGS biologist Erin Muths, who participated in the study. "If anything is doing poorly in an area we think is protected, that says something about our level of protection and about what may be happening outside those areas."
The study also concluded that species that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has already classified as in danger are disappearing at an even higher rate of 11.6 percent per year. If the trend continues, those species will be gone from half of their habitats in only six years.
USGS Director Suzette Kimball issued a statement saying these findings show "that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope."
Scientists noticed a decline in amphibian life in the early 1980s. In 2004, a global IUCN assessment announced that nearly a third of amphibian species worldwide were declining. It linked the rapid decline to habitat loss, diseases, invasive species, pollution and climate change.
Amphibians are important to the environment because they help with pest-control and feed other animals such as birds and fish. Their drastic disappearance could prove to be extremely problematic.
"[Amphibians] are a good example of the collapse of the world's ecosystems that we seem to be seeing right now," said USGS zoologist Stephen Corn, one of the authors of the study. "We're seeing a lot of species in a lot of places declining at the same time."