Educational Series: We Are In The Middle Of An Amphibian Crisis

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,mail” morebutton=”1″ counters=0 fullwidth=”yes” query=”yes”]By Nick Engelfried
Often overlooked and misunderstood, amphibians are perhaps the single most endangered group of animals on the planet. The plight of frogs, toads, salamanders, and their relatives may not receive as much attention as more charismatic animals–but fully 40% of the world’s approximately 8,000 amphibian species are threatened with extinction. The major causes of amphibian decline are complex and interrelated, but all are linked to human activity. This should worry us, because not only are amphibians beautiful living creatures important in their own right–they are also indicators of the health of the overall environment. The disappearance of amphibians is an ominous sign for other species, humans included.

Amphibians exist at the intersection of land and freshwater environments. With a few exceptions they require a moist habitat to survive, and most have a two-part life cycle, one portion of which is spent underwater. Most of us are familiar with “tadpoles” who turn into frogs. What you may not know is other amphibians, including newts and salamanders, have a very similar juvenile stage during which the legless young live underwater and breathe through gills. Almost all adult amphibians have lungs and breathe air, and most species spend a substantial amount of time out of the water. However, even adults absorb oxygen, water, and essential minerals like electrolytes through their moist skin, which has to stay wet for these processes to take place. It’s for this reason that you will very rarely find amphibians far from a source of clean water.

Unfortunately, amphibians’ special habitat needs make them especially vulnerable to environmental degradation. Because their life cycle includes both land and water phases, they are susceptible to harm when either environment is polluted or destroyed. Their delicate, oxygen-absorbing skin can also easily absorb pollutants from their environment. These and other factors put amphibians at especial risk.

There are six major threats to the survival of amphibian species–and in many cases they compound one another to make the animals even more vulnerable. By understanding what is causing the decline of frogs, toads, salamanders, and their relatives, we can better understand how to help them.

Habitat destruction: From the rainforests of Brazil to wetlands in the United States, amphibian habitats are under attack. Deforestation, damming of rivers, and draining of swamps and marshes are all activities that destroy the homes of amphibians and countless other animals. Some of the highest concentrations of frog species are in the tropics, where rainforests are cleared for timber or to make room for agriculture. Meanwhile, the United States is home to more salamander species than any other country in the world. Among the most diverse salamander habitats are the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern U.S., where unique species are threatened by destructive activities like mountaintop removal mining. Curbing such practices is one of the best ways we can secure a better future for amphibians.

Pollution: Pesticides, industrial chemicals, and pollutants from burning fossil fuels all have potential to poison amphibians and make their habitat unlivable. Fully enforcing laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act can help imperiled amphibians by forcing polluters to clean up their mess–but unfortunately, today these laws themselves are in danger. In September 2019, the Trump administration announced the official repeal of the Waters of the United States Rule, which formerly guaranteed Clean Water Act protections for many wetlands. This has left amphibians exposed to even more risk at a time when they need as much help as possible. Advocating for stronger pollution laws is one of the best things we can do for amphibians.

Climate change: Amphibians are among the thousands of animal species threatened by the climate crisis caused by burning fossil fuels. In some areas, changing weather patterns have led to more frequent droughts and the drying out of moist habitats which amphibians need to survive. These include the lower-elevation cloud forests of Central and South America, which support some of richest frog diversity found anywhere on the planet. The decline of cloud forests could doom many frogs and other amphibians to extinction.

Invasive species: Moving wild animals from one part of the world to another is almost never a good idea–and the introduction of exotic species has been disastrous for amphibians. A case in point is in the western United States, where native frogs and salamanders are being gobbled up by a fellow amphibian: the American bullfrog, originally introduced from the eastern part of the country. With their wide mouths and voracious appetites, bullfrogs have eaten their way through populations of vulnerable native species. Unfortunately, bullfrogs and other invasive species continue to be introduced to new areas, in part by pet owners who release them after finding they can no longer care for the animals. Educating the public about the harm posed by invasive species is an essential step for saving amphibians.

Over-harvesting: The amphibian pet trade isn’t only a problem because of the release of exotic species like bullfrogs. Many amphibians sold in pet stores–especially tropical species like the red-eyed tree frog–were taken from the wild, often from countries where there are few enforceable rules in place to protect them. Animal lovers should never buy an amphibian from a pet store unless you can be absolutely sure it was bred in captivity. Even then it is likely a bad move, for reasons described below.

Disease: Disease has always been a factor influencing animal populations, but human activity has led to wildlife diseases spreading quickly in areas where they never existed before–especially among amphibians. Indeed, perhaps the biggest immediate threat of all to amphibian survival is the parasitic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, often simply referred to as “Bd.” While it has likely long existed in certain areas, including parts of Africa and the eastern United States, Bd began rapidly spreading around the world in the late 1990s. Especially prevalent among frogs, the fungus infects the skin of its animal victim and interferes with the ability of the skin to absorb minerals and water. Some frog species have already been driven to extinction by Bd, while many others have been decimated with only small remnant populations surviving. It remains to be seen if these species will eventually recover their numbers, but in the meantime we must work to stop the spread of Bd. The fungus is believed to have first been transported around the world by the global trade in amphibians sold as pets, food, or laboratory animals.

While the global outlook for amphibians appears grim, there is still time for many species to be rescued from the brink of extinction. Everyone can play a part in securing a better future for amphibians–whether by caring for your local stream or wetland, avoiding the use of pesticides around your home, or refraining from participating in the global amphibian pet trade. Perhaps most important of all, you can become an advocate for amphibians by calling or writing to your members of Congress and other elected officials, urging them to defend and strengthen laws like the Clean Water Act. By working together, we can end the human-caused crisis that has engulfed the world’s amphibian species.

Photo credit: Ron Cogswell

  • The Premium Challenge

    We'll donate animal shelter meals for every correct answer:

    This week's challenge...We Are In The Middle Of An Amphibian Crisis.

    How much do you know?

    One of our core beliefs is that education leads to positive change. That is why we have the Educational Series. To make learning more fun, we are donating meals to animal shelters for every correct answer submitted by our Premium Members!

    While everyone can study our educational materials and take our quizzes, only Premium Members will have shelter meals donated for correct answers.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Wait, there’s one more step:

Over 1,402,880 Animal Shelter Meals Donated So Far –

Upgrade to a Premium Membership to get a free Animals Are Earth’s Greatest Treasure shirt, feed shelter animals with the Educational Series and Meal Wheel, sign 100’s of petitions with one-click, remove ads, and promote your favorite petitions to millions!

7 day money-back guarantee for new members. Zero risk.

Premium Membership comes with the following perks:

• Get a free Animals Are Earth’s Greatest Treasure shirt.
• Feed shelter animals by spinning the Meal Wheel.
• Sign 100’s of petitions with one-click.
• Feed shelter animals with the Educational Series quizzes.
• Remove ads and vote on which petitions are displayed to millions of people.

Our Guarantee:

Cancel your subscription for any reason within 7 days and we’ll refund 100% of your money, as long as you’re a first time member.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How are the animal shelter meals donated?

We donate shelter meals through Rescue Bank because they research all shelters, maintain equitable distribution, and track the meals from their facilities all the way to the rescue groups. This ensures that the donation will be utilized in the most efficient and impacting way.

Why don’t we just donate meals without providing any perks like the Meal Wheel?

We’ve been at this since 2008 and have learned that to really make a difference, we need to get people excited and engaged. Our mission is a serious one, but our methods are playful and educational. We’re serious about doing good, but also want to make it fun.

Who are we?

We are a family of sites that works to protect animals, the environment, and more. Our sites include and We’ve been at this for over a decade and are dedicated to protecting and defending animals and the environment. If we can have some fun and improve the world, then we’re accomplishing our goal!

Try Premium!

We’ve Been Doing This for Over a Decade and Others Have Taken Notice:

7 Day Guarantee!


“Thank you SO much for the premium feature of being able to sign multiple petitions with one click. Many of us go for hours at a time signing each and every petition and crying as we read them. I have often wished for a way to sign my name on every petition because I passionately support them and they all need our voice. This is the best thing – thank you very much!” -Karilyn K., Premium Member

“This is just the most amazing wonderful service that makes me so happy! To be able to feed shelter pets is just the greatest feeling. Thanks again for this, and for all you do for the most innocent and helpless among us, the animals. I’m lovestruck.” Sandra Z., Premium Member

“I love the upgrade option and I am so glad I did enables me to stand with you and many others to fight for the justice these precious souls deserve! We are their voice!!!! And....I adore helping to feed them as well! The spin the wheel game is fun....and I like doing it everyday to help! Keep up the wonderful work....and I know....every click makes a difference!” Dorothy B., Premium Member

“I am so excited to become a Premium Member and to have one-click signing, as I was spending countless hours signing petitions...not that I mind doing it, but my goodness, there sure are a lot of them. I always hope that my signature somehow helps, because these people that abuse/torture animals, need to be put away. As you can tell, that is my passion, I have such a heart for animals, and I want to be their voice.” Darlene R., Premium Member

“Thank you so much! I love being a premium member and spinning that wheel every day, especially when I land on 4 or, best of all, 5 meals. Thank you for all you do, we are all so grateful for you.” Sandy T., Premium Member

“With deepest Aloha, You have no idea how grateful I am for you!” Jan L., Premium Member

“Thank you for the Premium Membership option. I really appreciate that I can sign multiple petitions with one click. It's great! Thank you for the work you do.” Ashley H., Premium Member

“I absolutely love the Educational Series!” Yvonne L., Premium Member

"I am a premium member and religiously sign every petition. THANK YOU for this platform. I also vote for the petition nearest my heart, sometimes voting globally, sometimes I am caught by an individual animal's plight. What gives me great pleasure is noting that almost always, the percentages have no more than a 6-7% spread. It means that, overall, everyone cares about all of the petitions ALMOST EQUALLY! LOL, I also spin that wheel, and when I get 4 or 5 meals, I dance around the room! I have long maintained that what someone does to a helpless animal, they will do to a weaker human if they think that they can get away with it. Those who abuse, no matter how many legs their victims have, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law." Rebecca E., Premium Member

"I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Premium Membership! Everything and anything I can do to help animals and contribute to justice in the world makes me very happy!" Jan L., Premium Member

"Thank you, I love what you do. My friends and I love the membership because we can sign so many more petitions that we may never had heard of. Keep up the good work." Virginia G., Premium Member

Still have questions? Email us:

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,mail” morebutton=”1″ counters=0 fullwidth=”yes” query=”yes”]
Nick Engelfried Writes About Animals, the Environment, and Conservation for the ForceChange network

Skip to toolbar