Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Rescue salamanders from impending extinction as a result of climate change
Salamanders in the southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee are shrinking at an alarming rate, making them vulnerable to attacks by predators, unable to develop properly, and at risk for extinction. In a study conducted by biologist Karen Lips from the University of Maryland, salamanders have decreased in size by over eight percent since 1980. That number continues to rise as the Appalachian climate, once a haven for these amphibians, gets warmer and more difficult to thrive in.
Collecting salamanders from over 78 sites in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, the most dramatic change in body size recorded occurred further south, especially in Tennessee, where climate change has been the most substantial. Lips has stated of the shrinkage in salamanders as “…one of the largest and fastest rates of change ever recorded in any animal…” The groundbreaking data is the first confirmation that climate change can alter body size—a correlation that was only presented as a theory in the past.
Over the past decade, scientists have conducted studies on the decline of amphibians, but no other species has shown such rapid decline like the salamander. As cold-blooded creatures, salamanders are highly sensitive to changes in their surrounding environments—their internal temperatures reflect the temperature around them. In a hotter climate, salamanders’ body processes speed up causing them to burn more energy, metabolize quicker and, as a result, become smaller. This change causes them to spend more time foraging for food, searching for shade, and less time hunting for mates, which could mean an unprecedented decline in their existence in coming years. Simply put, smaller salamanders lay fewer eggs and are more susceptible to predators.“In general, bigger is better for these guys,” Lips says.
A species that has been on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, salamanders are no strangers to adaptation in a changing climate. However, the pace of climate change occurring today is much too quick for the salamander to keep up, threatening impending extinction for these important creatures. Salamanders are imperative to the food web of the forest, eating bugs and converting them into food for birds and other mammals. If eliminated, the ecosystem could feel detrimental reverberations for countless years to come.
Sign the petition to urge the EPA’s Gina McCarthy to do more to protect salamanders from impending extinction.
Dear Ms. McCarthy,
Salamanders of the southern Appalachian Mountains are declining in size at a rapid rate, due in part to our warming climate and active negligence. With an average body weight that is eight percent smaller than previously recorded averages, salamanders are being picked off by predators, producing fewer eggs and therefore being forcibly thrust into impending extinction.
If we do not address this problem soon then salamanders, which are an important part of the forest ecosystem, could cease to exist in the near future. The detrimental reverberations of their decline and elimination will be felt for years to come, and would affect the livelihoods of other animals in the food web. I urge you to do more to protect these amphibians from disappearing forever.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Seemann via morguefile