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Climate impacts on amphibians and reptiles

09/07/2016 - How does climate change affect amphibians and reptiles – animals whose body temperature depends directly on ambient temperature? A team of international scientists, involving the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and WWF Germany, analyzed the peer reviewed literature on the subject of the past ten years – their findings were now published in Royal Society Open Science.
Climate impacts on amphibians and reptiles

Photo: Ignacio De La Riva

Climate change can have direct impacts on amphibians and reptiles for example through heat and droughts, or affect them indirectly through changes in vegetation or the availability of food. The study by Maiken Winter and colleagues shows that climate change has a negative effect on so called cold-blooded animals in more than half of the cases analyzed in the reviewed articles. That can mean populations decline or the distribution ranges shrink or change so much that the species has to move altogether.

For a small part of the animals climate change can be positive – their distribution regions grow, eggs and larvae develop faster. But because the most species live in the tropics, the few positive effects cannot outweigh the negative ones: tropic regions in South America, Africa and Asia are particularly vulnerable for climate change. A total of 195 amphibian and 118 reptilian species from around the world were examined in the study; this is only a fraction of all known amphibians and reptiles, but it gives an initial overview of the impact of human-caused global warming on these vulnerable animals.

Article: Maiken Winter, Wolfgang Fiedler, Wesley M. Hochachka, Arnulf Koehncke, Shai Meiri, Ignacio De la Riva (2016): Patterns and biases in climate change research on amphibians and reptiles: a systematic review. Royal Society Open Science [

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