It is certainly a sign of our globally networked times — and a much welcomed one — that more and more individuals, groups and organizations are discovering the power of “crowd sourcing” (sometimes called “crowd-llaboration”) to successfully further their goals and missions. And so it is to be with the “hunt” for endangered species.
Case in point: The Global Amphibian Blitz project. Initiated in May of 2011, the project is an on-line information sharing hub for non-professional naturalists and biologists whose goal is to track and record sightings of amphibians the world over. This information will then help professional researchers to document and determine where protection efforts are most needed.
Global amphibian distribution is quite lacking in documentation and data. The term ‘blitz’ is used here in the belief that this crowd-sourcing method of species inventorying will speed up research and conservation efforts in a cost-effective way — avoiding the need for major research funding to explore potential habitats.
The Blitz project is a joint endeavor of the University of California, Berkeley’s AmphibiaWeb (which is a database of nearly 7,000 amphibians), Amphibian Ark, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Amphibian Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission ( part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature), the Center for Biological Diversity, and iNaturalist.org (a social network for naturalists and host of the project site).
The Amphibia, are a class of vertebrate animals that includes three orders of animals: frogs and toads, salamanders and newts, and caecilians, which are limbless amphibians that resemble snakes. The name amphibian is a compound word meaning “on both sides” (amphi) and “life” (bian, from bios) as these creatures can exist on land and in water (or their life cycles begin or end in either). According to the database at Berkeley, there are some 6,813 (documented) species of Amphibia spread across the planet. So far (as of June 1, 2011) just over 300 of these species have been identified in their natural habitats by project participants.
As a group, amphibians have quickly become one of the most vulnerable to the depredations of climate change. Warming, habitat loss and fragmentation, and disease are the primary causes of their declines. Current scientific estimates are that up 40% of all amphibians will go extinct over the next seven decades. With special adaptations to ecological niches and sensitive reproductive cycles, amphibians are major indicator species of (mostly fresh water) ecosystem health and vitality.
Visit the Global Amphibian Blitz site, sign up, start searching and help save the amphibians!
Note to Reader: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the GAB was inititiated in 2010. It was in fact, only recently begun in the past month, May, 2011
Second photo: USFWS
Third photo: (Alpine newt) Christian R. Linder ; CC -By – SA 3.0
Fourth photo: Dawson ; CC – By – SA 2.5