Friday 6 May 2016

Combined effects of copper, climate change can be deadly for amphibians, research finds

Date: April 12, 2016
Source: University of Georgia

Researchers at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory warn that the extinction to two amphibian species--the southern toad and the southern leopard frog--may be hastened by the combined effects of climate change and copper-contaminated wetlands.
Scott Weir, a postdoctoral researcher who led the study, said copper is naturally found in aquatic environments and, to some extent, facilitates physiological processes. However, it is toxic at elevated levels. Seasonal wetlands, which are breeding grounds for amphibians, often contain copper and other contaminants as a result of industrial activities and runoff from roads.

Armed with data indicating warming trends in the Southeastern U.S., where the two species reside, the researchers saw the need to evaluate the combined effects of copper contamination and climate change.

"Studies often examine the impact of single environmental stressors on a species, but, in reality, a species is often hit by several stressors at once," said study co-author Stacey Lance, an associate research scientist at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. "It could be multiple types of pollutants or, in this case, a metal pollutant that accumulates in wetlands along with wetland habitat changes associated with climate change."

Weir said in addition to the copper contamination, climate change may increase the frequency of catastrophic reproductive failure.

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