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Can amphibians bounce back from the brink?

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A live boreal toad from waters known to harbor the deadly chytrid fungus. bberwyn photo.

Research suggests some species can develop or acquire an immunity to deadly fungal pathogens

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Florida-based researchers say they may have some answers for the puzzling wave of amphibian deaths that’s been wiping out populations of some species. At least some frogs and snakes may be able to develop immunity to the deadly chytrid fungus that’s been implicated in the die-off, University of South Florida biologists said this week.

Their findings could be good news in general for biodiversity, as emerging fungal pathogens are seen as posing the greatest threat of any parastic pathogens, contributing to declines of  amphibians, bats, corals, bees and snakes. Continue reading

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Feds set target date for boreal toad listing decision

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A boreal toad survey team member holds one of two adult toads found in Cucumber Gulch, in Breckenridge, Colorado, during the summer of 2005. Since then, no more boreal toads have been documented in the wetlands preserve. bberwyn photo.

Decline of once-common Colorado high-elevation toad a symptom of global amphibian decline

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — While remnant populations of boreal toads in Colorado appear to be relatively stable for now, federal biologists are still considering whether the amphibians need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

In the latest twist, conservation groups said they’ve reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a timeline to make a listing decision, giving the agency four years to decide whether boreal toads in the southern Rocky Mountains, Utah, southern Idaho and northeastern Nevada should be formally classified as endangered or threatened. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Frogs, toads and salamanders vanishing fast

New study tracks alarming rate of population decline, spurs call for immediate conservation action

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Boreal toads have all but disappeared from parts of the Rocky Mountains. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The sudden decline of boreal toad populations in Colorado during the past couple of decades took state researchers by surprise, but it turns out that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Globally, the loss of amphibian species has sent shock waves rippling through aquatic ecosystems and there’s no sign the decline is slowing down, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who recently set out to measure amphibian losses in the United States. Continue reading

Endangered species listing sought for boreal toads

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Do boreal toads need immediate protection under the Endangered Species Act? Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Conservation groups say they’ll go to court to force action 20 years after federal biologists first said the species qualifies for protection

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Rare boreal toads need Endangered Species Act protection sooner rather later, according to conservation activists who this week said they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over it’s failure to protect dwindling populations of the ampibian.

Although Colorado populations of boreal toads have also declined from historic levels, the state is still somewhat of a stronghold, thanks in part to a state-led restoration effort and other protective measures. Boreal toads exist in less than 1 percent of their historic breeding areas in the southern Rockies. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Boreal toads closer to endangered listing

A Colorado boreal toad. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service starts 12-month review that will culminate with a decision on listing

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Boreal toads are one step closer to getting the Endangered Species Act protection that they’ve long deserved, thanks to persistent pressure from conservation advocates with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week found that boreal toads in the southern Rocky Mountains, Utah, southern Idaho and northeastern Nevada may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.

The unique population of toads is in steep decline due to a deadly fungal disease and habitat destruction. Today’s announcement responds to a 2011 petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild (formerly Center for Native Ecosystems) and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.

The Fish and Wildlife Service essentially decided that that the petition presents enough information to pursue a full-fledged review of boreal toads. The agency will consider whether the eastern population of toads should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, making a decision in 12 months. Continue reading

Report: Biodiversity can slow the spread of pathogens

The last living boreal toad found 2006 in the Cucumber Gulch wetlands in Breckenridge, Colorado. BOB BERWYN PHOTO.

Healthy ecosystems with all species present can slow the spread of deadly disease like the chytrid fungus that’s killing boreal toads

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Species diversity may play a key role in slowing the spread of pathogens like the chytrid fungus that’s killing amphibians all over the world.

“With greater diversity of species, you get a dilution effect that can reduce the severity of disease,” said Catherine Searle, an Oregon State University zoologist and lead author of a recent study that looks at the role of biodiversity in slowing the spread of deadly diseases. “Some species are poor hosts, some may not get infected at all, and this tends to slow disease transmission,” she explained. Continue reading

Colorado: Groups seek endangered status for boreal toads

A boreal toad in Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE.

Disappearing Rocky Mountain toad populations are part of a global wave of amphibian extinctions

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — New genetic studies have prompted environmental groups to once again seek Endangered Species Act protection for boreal toads. The amphibians were once common throughout the Rockies, but their populations have dwindled as the deadly chytrid fungus sweeps around the world.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Native Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance last week petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the Southern Rockies population of boreal toad to the federal list. Continue reading

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