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Figure 1. Many amphibian species . . .Click to Enlarge Image

In recent decades, amphibian populations around the world have experienced dramatic declines, with some species showing high rates of deformities and others simply disappearing. What is causing this widespread mortality? In this article, Kiesecker and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University explain their conclusion that human-induced climate change can explain many of the losses. Amphibians seem to be particularly sensitive to changes in the environment, such as chemicals and climate change, making them sentinel species in our 21st century world—the canaries in our coal mine, so to speak. The authors go on to state the same forces that threaten amphibians may be fueling the increased prevalence, virulence and rates of emergence for human infectious diseases, including SARS, Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

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