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The Future of Amphibian Conservation: an interview with the Amphibian Survival Alliance

October 9, 2012

This week Jaime Garcia Moreno, the Executive Director of the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), took the time to speak with the Biofresh blog about the plight of amphibians and the work that the ASA have been doing.

The ASA is a global partnership for amphibian conservation. Called for since 2006, the Alliance was only formed in December last year. The ASA’s major goal is to implement the global Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP) and it attempts to bring focus, coordination, and leadership to address the world’s most serious extinction crisis.  In this interview, Jaime Garcia Moreno, the Director of the ASA, discusses issues including some of the challenges the ASA faces, promising developments in amphibians and what needs to be done in order to scale up conservation and prevent further declines in amphibian populations.

BioFresh Blog: The Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) was born less than a year ago. How would you assess the progress of the Alliance to date?

Jaime Garcia Moreno: Given the constrains in which the Alliance was born – tight resources, insufficient awareness – I would say that there is some progress, but certainly not at the pace that we would like to see. Nevertheless, the Alliance has grown from its original six founder institutions to 25 partners now, and still growing.

BB: The ASA is committed to implement the global Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP). Since its development in 2005, the implementation of the ACAP has been slow and uneven. What has the ASA done to improve the implementation of the ACAP?

Photo: Creative Commons

JGM: The Amphibian crisis is one of the most challenging conservation problems of this century, so it is not even realistic to think that in 15 months the ASA would manage to change the game. We are setting the foundations for improved coordination of conservation actions across the board, and to extend amphibian conservation beyond the relatively tight circle of players currently involved.

BB:What do you think are some of the most promising developments in the fight to prevent further amphibian population declines?

JGM: We see many opportunities to mainstream amphibian conservation. Many species live in very small areas in the tropics. These small distributions make them rather vulnerable to habitat loss, but they are also excellent opportunities to save species from extinction with focused actions and relatively modest investments. The intersection between amphibian conservation and other large environmental problems (like habitat loss, climate change, water security, etc) is such, that we estimate that amphibian conservation can help advance countries towards the fulfilment of 15-16 of the Aichi targets that they committed to at the [Convention on Biological Diversity] CBD.

Photo: Photowitch

BB: Amphibians the world over are facing probably the world’s most serious extinction crisis. What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions?

JGM: I think we need to improve awareness and “mainstream” amphibian conservation if we want to see serious progress. While experts know all the details of the amphibian crisis, many people do not even know what an amphibian is (in [last] week’s Nature Podcast salamanders are identified as reptiles!), let alone that they are fading away. We also need to interact more with colleagues from other disciplines to intersect amphibian conservation into what they are doing – river basin managers, protected area managers, trade experts, legislators, ecosystem restoration experts, etc. They will not do what is needed to keep amphibians going unless they know how their actions and decisions can affect these creatures, and that is one role for ASA.

Amphibians are affected by many threats, some of them quite difficult to deal with – like the chytrid fungus, which we will have to learn to co-exist with and manage for the time being. Nevertheless, the problems affecting the most species are not different from those affecting other creatures: deforestation, habitat loss and degradation, water management that does not consider the environment as a rightful user of it in order to function and provide vital ecosystem services. In that way, I am hopeful that by teaming up with others and pointing out that amphibians ought to be taken seriously, that they can be an indicator of overall ecosystem health, we will manage to contain this crisis and continue to enjoy the sights and sounds of frogs and salamanders.

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