Climate change is among the most serious threats that salamander populations face. Detrimental changes in climate such as increased temperatures, changing humidity levels, desertification, and droughts wreak havoc on salamanders. These animals are generally adapted to moist and cool climates and may require very specific conditions to thrive. Salamanders also live a ”double-life” being associated with both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Alterations to these optimal conditions result in salamander species dwindling. Changes in climate can also effect the forming and availability of critical habitat features such as vernal pools (that are utilized for breeding and birthing/egg-laying sites). Certain salamander species have small natural ranges, and within these ranges show fidelity to over-wintering sites. Thus, these forms have limited opportunities for dispersal if their habitats are degraded due to negative climate changes. The National Zoo declares that one of the most serious threats to salamanders is climate change. They state that salamanders need cool moist places to survive. The world is getting hotter and drier; temperatures in Appalachia are predicted to rise by 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Salamanders have relatively long lifespans, but they do not mature or reproduce as quickly as some other aquatic animals. They may not be able to adapt to such radical change.
Biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, have reported that salamander populations in parts of Central America have declined sharply in the past 40 years and global warming could be the cause. According to David Wake, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, salamanders in Guatemala lived on a controlled nature preserve, so neither outside predators nor human disturbance could have been responsible for their startling disappearance. Such a statement signals the very extreme threat that climate change represents to salamanders.
Climate change is often cited to be one of the reasons that salamanders are disappearing from otherwise pristine and protected habitats. A 2012 study on salamanders based on resurveys in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park found no clear answers for the almost 50 year widespread decline in plethodontid salamander populations. Caruso and Lips (2012) found declines not associated with localities but with certain Plethodon species. Over collecting, logging, and acid rain are unlikely to have caused these population declines, but the researchers were unable to rule out disease or climate change as contributing factors.
Fight Climate Change to Save the Salamanders!
Individuals who wish to contribute to the conservation and protection of salamanders are urged to reduce their carbon footprint. Such activities will also benefit all other amphibian species, and many other forms of wildlife too.
One of the most effective ways in which to lower your carbon foot print is through dietary changes. Eating locally produced and organic foods are especially important. Eating less meat is also extremely helpful. The United Nations recently reported that a global shift toward a plant based diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” Furthermore, the official handbook for Live Earth states that not eating meat is the ‘single most effective thing you can do’ to reduce your climate change impact.
Factory farming and agriculture also account for a significant amount of natural habitat being destroyed and degraded. Habitat destruction is one of the leading causes of declining salamander populations. The waste produced from such areas also degrades nearby natural areas.
Those who sincerely want to help minimize the degradation of the environment and help stop the decline in salamanders should strive to adopt an environmentally friendly diet (eat locally, eating less meat, eating organic, and not supporting food trades that cause by-catch).