Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 1043–1062 | Cite as

Impacts of climate change on the amphibians and reptiles of Southeast Asia

  • David BickfordEmail author
  • Sam D. Howard
  • Daniel J. J. Ng
  • Jennifer A. Sheridan
Original Paper


Amphibians and reptiles will be adversely affected by projected rapid changes in climate in the next decades. Here, we review the known and potential impacts of climate change on the Southeast Asian amphibians and reptiles and make mitigation recommendations for both research and policy. Current amphibian and reptile distributions and ecologies mirror climate patterns, and we expect that adaptation to changes in these parameters will be too slow relative to their rate of expected change, and that pervasive changes will occur to species assemblages, communities, and ecosystem functioning and services. Southest Asia is a network of islands with relatively few mountains, effectively preventing most herpetofauna from migrating away from the effects of climate change. Reflecting specific known and hypothesized physiological and ecological thresholds, we estimate that in <50 years, amphibians and reptiles in Southeast Asia will have reached or exceeded most limits in their abilities to adapt to the effects of climate change and that temperature dependent sex determination, higher metabolic rates, and less bio-available water will have severe and irreversible effects on these organisms. We suggest that human decision-making and policy development have already lagged and that societal change is happening too slowly for effective mitigation. If we are to avert devastating loss of biodiversity and a complete meltdown of ecosystem services, we must quickly change our attitudes and thinking about how we interact with and use biological systems.


Amphibians Climate change Conservation Extinction Reptiles Southeast Asia Policy 



Community Climate System Model


El Niño Southern Oscillation


International Panel on Climate Change


Net primary productivity


Temperature-dependant sex determination





We thank Lian Pin Koh and Navjot Sodhi for the invitation to contribute this article. Funding support was provided by the Ministry of Education and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Grants # R-154-000-383-133 and R-154-000-434-112. We thank the members of the Environmental Biology group at NUS for fruitful discussions. This research uses data provided by the Community Climate System Model project (, supported by the Directorate for Geosciences of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy. NCAR GIS Initiative provided CCSM data in a GIS format through GIS Climate Change Scenarios portal ( We thank Maureen Donnelly and her lab and an anonymous reviewer for constructive and insightful comments that improved the manuscript considerably.


  1. Aho AC, Donner K, Hyden C et al (1988) Low retinal noise in animals with low body-temperature allows high visual sensitivity. Nature 334:348–350PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Allan RP, Soden BJ (2008) Atmospheric warming and the amplification of precipitation extremes. Science 321:481–484Google Scholar
  3. Allen MR, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle. Nature 419:224–232PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Allsop DJ, Warner DA, Langkilde T et al (2006) Do operational sex ratios influence sex allocation in viviparous lizards with temperature-dependent sex determination? J Evol Biol 19:1175–1182PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Alvarez D, Nicieza AG (2002) Effects of temperature and food quality on anuran larval growth and metamorphosis. Funct Ecol 16:640–648Google Scholar
  6. Araújo MB, Thuiller W, Pearson RG (2006) Climate warming and the decline of amphibians and reptiles in Europe. J Biogeogr 33:1712–1728Google Scholar
  7. Arntzen JW (1999) Sexual selection and male mate choice in the common toad, Bufo bufo. Ethol Ecol Evol 11:407–414Google Scholar
  8. Beaugrand G, Reid PC, Ibanez F et al (2002) Reorganization of North Atlantic marine copepod biodiversity and climate. Science 296:1692–1694PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Beck CW, Congdon JD (2000) Effects of age and size at metamorphosis on performance and metabolic rates of Southern Toad, Bufo terrestris, metamorphs. Funct Ecol 14:32–38Google Scholar
  10. Belden LK, Blaustein AR (2002) Exposure of red-legged frog embryos to ambient UV-B radiation in the field negatively affects larval growth and development. Oecologia (Heidelb) 130:551–554Google Scholar
  11. Bickford D (2005) Long-term frog monitoring with local people in Papua New Guinea and the 1997–98 el Niño Southern Oscillation Event. In: Donnelly M, White M, Crother B, Wake C (eds) Ecology and evolution in the tropics—a herpetological perspective. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  12. Bickford D, Lohman DJ, Sodhi NS et al (2007) Cryptic species as a window on diversity and conservation. Trends Ecol Evol 22:148–155PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Brattstrom BH (1968) Thermal acclimation in anuran amphibians as a function of latitude and altitude. Comp Biochem Physiol 24:93–111PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown GP, Shine R (2007) Rain, prey and predators: climatically driven shifts in frog abundance modify reproductive allometry in a tropical snake. Oecologia 154:361–368PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Bull JJ (1980) Sex determination in reptiles. Q Rev Biol 55:3–21Google Scholar
  16. Bull JJ (2008) Sex determination: are two mechanisms better than one? J Biosci 33:5–8PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Calbó J, Pages D, Gonzalez JA (2005) Empirical studies of cloud effects on UV radiation: a review. Rev Geophys 43:RG2002 10.1029/2004RG000155Google Scholar
  18. Carey C, Cohen N, Rollins-Smith L (1999) Amphibian declines: an immunological perspective. Dev Comp Immunol 23:459–472PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Cess RD, Potter GL, Blanchet P et al (1990) Intercomparison and interpretation of climate feedback processes in 19 atmospheric general circulation models. J Geophys Res 95(10):16601–16615Google Scholar
  20. Ciofi C, Swingland IR (1997) Environmental sex determination in reptiles. Appl Anim Behav Sci 51:251–265Google Scholar
  21. Clark DA, Piper SC, Keeling CD et al (2003) Tropical rain forest tree growth and atmospheric carbon dynamics linked to interannual temperature variation during 1984–2000. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100:5852–5857PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Crews D, Bergeron JM, Bull JJ et al (1994) Temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles: proximate mechanisms, ultimate outcomes, and practical applications. Dev Genet 15:297–312PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Crump ML (1989) Effect of habitat drying on developmental time and size at metamorphosis in Hyla pseudopuma. Copeia 1989:794–797Google Scholar
  24. Danielson E, Levin EW, Abrams J (2002) Meteorology, 2nd edn. McGraw Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Daszak P, Berger L, Cunningham AA et al (1999) Emerging infectious diseases and amphibian population declines. Emerg Infect Dis 5:735–748PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. TIGR Reptile Database (2009) Cited 24 December 2009
  27. Daufresne M, Lengfellner K, Sommer U (2009) Global warming benefits the small in aquatic ecosystems. Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:12788–12793PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Donnelly MA, Crump ML (1998) Potential effects of climate change on two Neotropical amphibian assemblages. Climatic Change 39:541–561Google Scholar
  29. Doody JS, Guarino E, Georges A et al (2006) Nest site choice compensates for climate effects on sex ratios in a lizard with environmental sex determination. Evol Ecol 20:307–330Google Scholar
  30. Duarte CM (2002) The future of seagrass meadows. Environ Conserv 29:192–206Google Scholar
  31. Eggert C (2004) Sex determination: the amphibian models. Reprod Nutr Dev 44:539–549PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Estupinan JG, Raman S, Crescenti GH et al (1996) Effects of clouds and haze on UV-B radiation. J Geophys Res 101(D11):16807–16816Google Scholar
  33. Ewert MA, Jackson DR, Nelson CE (1994) Patterns of temperature-dependent sex determination in turtles. J Exp Zool 270:3–15Google Scholar
  34. Ewert MA, Lang JW, Nelson CE (2005) Geographic variation in the pattern of temperature-dependent sex determination in the American snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina). J Zool 265:81–95Google Scholar
  35. Feder ME, Burggren WW (eds) (1992) Environmental physiology of the amphibians. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  36. Fite KV, Blaustein AR, Bengston L et al (1998) Evidence of retinal light damage in Rana cascadae: a declining amphibian species. Copeia 1998:906–914Google Scholar
  37. Fitzpatrick LC (1976) Life history patterns of storage and utilization of lipids for energy in amphibians. Am Zool 16:725–732Google Scholar
  38. Gardner JL, Heinsohn R, Joseph L (2009) Shifting latitudinal clines in avian body size correlate with global warming in Australian passerines. Proc R Soc B 276:3845–3852PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Gerhardt HC, Mudry KM (1980) Temperature effects on frequency preferences and mating call frequencies in the green treefrog Hyla cinerea (Anura: Hylidae). J Comp Physiol A Sens Neural Behav Physiol A 137:1–6Google Scholar
  40. Gillooly JF, Brown JH, West GB et al (2001) Effects of size and temperature on metabolic rate. Science 293:2248–2251PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Gosner KL (1960) A simplified table for staging anuran embryos and larvae with notes on identification. Herpetologica 16:183–190Google Scholar
  42. Green M, Thompson MB, Lemckert FL (2004) The effects of suspended sediments on the tadpoles of two stream-breeding and forest dwelling frogs, Mixophyes balbus and Heleioporus australiacus. In: Lunney D (ed) Conservation of Australia’s Forest Fauna, 2nd edn. University of Minnesota Press, Royal Zoological Society of New South WalesGoogle Scholar
  43. Hall R (2009) Southeast Asia’s changing palaeogeography. Blumea 54:148–161Google Scholar
  44. Harkey GA, Semlitsch RD (1988) Effects of temperature on growth, development and color polymorphism in the ornate chorus frog Pseudacris ornata. Copeia 1001–1007Google Scholar
  45. Hatch AC, Blaustein AR (2003) Combined effects of the UV-B radiation and nitrate fertilizer on larval amphibians. Ecol Appl 13:1083–1093Google Scholar
  46. Hays GC, Broderick AC, Glen F et al (2003) Climate change and sea turtles: a 150-year reconstruction of incubation temperatures at a major marine turtle rookery. Glob Change Biol 9:642–646Google Scholar
  47. Hijmans RJ, Cameron SE, Parra JL, Jones PG, Jarvis A (2005) Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. Int J Climatol 25:1965–1978Google Scholar
  48. Houghton J (1997) Global warming. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 267 ppGoogle Scholar
  49. Houghton JDR, Myers AE, Lloyd C et al (2007) Protracted rainfall decreases temperature within leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) clutches in Grenada, West Indies: ecological implications for a species displaying temperature dependent sex determination. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 345:71–77Google Scholar
  50. Huber M (2009) Climate change: snakes tell a torrid tale. Nature 457:669–671PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nystrom M, Palumbi SR, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Roughgarden J (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301:929–933PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. IPCC (2007) Summary for policymakers. In: Solomon SD, Qin M, Manning Z et al (eds) Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Janzen FJ (1994) Climate-change and temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 91:7484–7490Google Scholar
  54. Kats LB, Kiesecker JM, Chivers DP et al (2000) Effects of UV-B radiation on anti-predator behavior in three species of amphibians. Ethology 106:921–931Google Scholar
  55. Kingsolver JG (2009) The well-temperatured biologist. Am Nat 174:755–768PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Kraemer JE, Bell R (1980) Rain-induced mortality of eggs and hatchlings of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) on the Georgia coast. Herpetologica 36:72–77Google Scholar
  57. Kusrini MD, Skerratt LF, Garland S et al (2008) Chytridiomycosis in frogs of Mount Gede Pangrango, Indonesia. Dis Aquat Org 82:187–194PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Laurance WF (2002) Forest-climate interactions in fragmented tropical landscapes. Phil Trans Roy Soc B 359:345–352Google Scholar
  59. Limpus CA (2006) Impacts of climate change on marine turtles: a case study. In: Migratory species and climate change: impacts of a changing environment on wild animals. UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Bonn, 68 ppGoogle Scholar
  60. IUCN Red List (2009) Cited 10 August 2009
  61. Loehr VJT, Hofmeyr MD, Henen BT (2007) Growing and shrinking in the smallest tortoise, Homopus signatus signatus: the importance of rain. Oecologia 153:479–488PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Loman J (2002) Temperature, genetic and hydroperiod effects on metamorphosis of brown frogs Rana arvalis and R. temporaria in the field. J Zool (Lond) 258:115–129Google Scholar
  63. Madsen T, Shine R (1996) Seasonal migration of predators and prey—a study of pythons and rats in tropical Australia. Ecology 77:149–156Google Scholar
  64. Madsen T, Shine R (2000) Rain, fish and snakes: climatically driven population dynamics of Arafura filesnakes in tropical Australia. Oecologia 124:208–215Google Scholar
  65. Malhi Y, Roberts JT, Betts RA et al (2008) Climate change, deforestation, and the fate of the Amazon. Science 319:169–172PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Manabe S, Stouffer RJ (1993) Century-scale effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on the ocean-atmosphere system. Nature 364:215–218Google Scholar
  67. Markham A (1996) Potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems: a review of implications for policymakers and conservation biologists. Climate Res 6(2):179–191Google Scholar
  68. Marquez R (1995) Female choice in the midwife toads (Alytes obstetricians and A. cisternasii). Behaviour 132:151–161Google Scholar
  69. Massot M, Clobert J, Ferriere R (2008) Climate warming, dispersal inhibition and extinction risk. Glob Change Biol 14:461–469Google Scholar
  70. McDiarmid RW, Altig R (eds) (1999) Tadpoles, the biology of anuran larvae. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  71. McMahon CR, Hays GC (2006) Thermal niche, large-scale movements and implications of climate change for a critically endangered marine vertebrate. Glob Change Biol 12:1330–1338Google Scholar
  72. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG et al (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858PubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Nagl AM, Hofer R (1997) Effects of ultraviolet radiation on early larval stages of the Alpine newt, Triturus alpestris, under natural and laboratory conditions. Oecologia (Heidelb) 110:514–519Google Scholar
  74. Nakamura M (2009) Sex determination in amphibians. Semin Cell Dev Biol 20:271–282PubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Neelin JD, Munnich M, Su H et al (2006) Tropical drying trends in global warming models and observations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103(16):6110–6115PubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Nepstad DC, Verissimo A, Alencar A et al (1999) Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire. Nature 398:505–508Google Scholar
  77. Ozgul A, Tuljapurkar S, Benton TG et al (2009) The dynamics of phenotypic change and the shrinking sheep of St. Kilda. Science 325:464–467PubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Palma JAM (1997) Marine turtle conservation in the Philippines and initiatives towards a regional management and conservation programme. In: Proceedings of the workshop on marine turtle research and management in Indonesia. Wetlands international-Indonesia programme, Indonesia, pp 121–138Google Scholar
  79. Peltzer PM, Lajmanovich RC, Sánchez-Hernandez JC et al (2006) Effects of agricultural pond eutrophication on survival and health status of Scinax nasicus tadpoles. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 70:185–197Google Scholar
  80. Petchey OL, McPhearson PT, Casey TM et al (1999) Environmental warming alters food-web structure and ecosystem function. Nature 402:69–72Google Scholar
  81. Peterson TC, Vose RS (1997) An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network temperature database. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 78:2837–2849Google Scholar
  82. Pieau C, Dorizzi M, Richard-Mercier N (1999) Temperature-dependent sex determination and gonadal differentiation in reptiles. Cell Mol Life Sci 55:887–900PubMedGoogle Scholar
  83. Polovina JJ, Kobayahi DR, Parker DM et al (2000) Turtles on the edge: movement of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) along oceanic fronts, spanning longline fishing grounds in the central North Pacific, 1997–1998. Fish Oceanogr 9:71–82Google Scholar
  84. Polovina JJ, Balazs GH, Howell EA et al (2004) Forage and migration habitat of loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles in the central North Pacific Ocean. Fish Oceanogr 13:36–51Google Scholar
  85. Pounds JA, Crump ML (1994) Amphibian declines and climate disturbance: the case of the golden toad and the harlequin frog. Conserv Biol 8:72–85Google Scholar
  86. Pounds JA, Bustamante MR, Coloma LA et al (2006) Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439:161–167PubMedGoogle Scholar
  87. Rahmstorf S (1997) Risk of sea-change in the Atlantic. Nature 388:825–826Google Scholar
  88. Raxworthy CJ, Pearson RG, Rabibisoa N et al (2008) Extinction vulnerability of tropical montane endemism from warming and upslope displacement: a preliminary appraisal for the highest massif in Madagascar. Glob Change Biol 14:1703–1720Google Scholar
  89. Roemmich D, McGowan J (1995) Climatic warming and the decline of zooplankton in the California current. Science 267:1324–1326PubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Rojas S, Richards K, Jancovich JK et al (2005) Influence of temperature on Ranavirus infection in larval salamanders Ambystoma tigrinum. Dis Aquat Org 63:95–100PubMedGoogle Scholar
  91. Romansic JM, Waggener AA, Bancroft BA et al (2009) Influence of ultraviolet-B radiation on growth, prevalence of deformities, and susceptibility to predation in Cascades frog (Rana cascadae) larvae. Hydrobiologia 624:219–233Google Scholar
  92. Sanuy D, Oromí N, Galofré A (2008) Effects of temperature on embryonic and larval development and growth in the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) in a semi-arid zone. Anim Biodiversity Conserv 31(1):41–46Google Scholar
  93. Scott DE, Fore MR (1995) The effect of food limitation on lipid levels, growth, and reproduction in the marbled salamander, Ambystoma opacum. Herpetologica 51:462–471Google Scholar
  94. Shine R, Madsen T (1997) Prey abundance and predator reproduction: rats and pythons on a tropical Australian floodplain. Ecology 78:1078–1086Google Scholar
  95. Shine R, Elphick MJ, Donnellan S (2002) Co-occurrence of multiple, supposedly incompatible modes of sex determination in a lizard population. Ecol Lett 5:486–489Google Scholar
  96. Sibly RM, Atkinson D (1994) How rearing temperature affects optimal adult size in ectotherms. Funct Ecol 8:486–493Google Scholar
  97. Skerratt LF, Berger L, Speare R et al (2007) Spread of chytridiomycosis has caused the rapid global decline and extinction of frogs. EcoHealth 4:125–134Google Scholar
  98. Snyder GK, Weathers WW (1975) Temperature adaptations in amphibians. Am Nat 109:93–101Google Scholar
  99. Spotila JR (1972) Role of temperature and water in the ecology of lungless salamanders. Ecol Monogr 42:95–124Google Scholar
  100. Stocker TF, Schmittner A (1997) Influence of CO2 emission rates on the stability of the thermohaline circulation. Nature 388:862–865Google Scholar
  101. Stuart BL, Inger RF, Voris HK (2006) High level of cryptic species diversity revealed by sympatric lineages of Southeast Asian forest frogs. Biol Lett 2:470–474PubMedGoogle Scholar
  102. Tejedo M (1992) Effects of body size and timing of reproduction on reproductive success in female natterjack toads Bufo calamita. J Zool (Lond) 228:545–555Google Scholar
  103. Telemeco RS, Elphick MJ, Shine R (2009) Nesting lizards (Bassiana duperreyi) compensate partly, but not completely, for climate change. Ecology 90:17–22PubMedGoogle Scholar
  104. Tietge JE, Diamond SA, Ankley GT et al (2001) Ambient solar UV radiation causes mortality in larvae of three species of Rana under controlled exposure conditions. Photochem Photobiol 74:261–268PubMedGoogle Scholar
  105. Walsh RPD (1996) Drought frequency changes in Sabah and adjacent parts of northern Borneo since the late nineteenth century and possible implications for tropical rain forest dynamics. J Trop Ecol 12:385–407Google Scholar
  106. Wassersug R, Feder M (1983) The effects of aquatic oxygen concentration, body size and respiratory behaviour on the stamina of obligate (Bufo americanus) and facultative air-breathing (Xenopus laevis and Rana berlandieri) anuran larvae. J Exp Biol 105:173–190PubMedGoogle Scholar
  107. Whitten T, Mustafa M, Henderson GS (2002) The ecology of Sulawesi. Periplus Editions, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  108. Wiafe G, Yaqub HB, Mensah MA et al (2008) Impact of climate change on long-term zooplankton biomass in the upwelling region of the Gulf of Guinea. ICES J Mar Sci 65:318–324Google Scholar
  109. Zachos J, Pagani M, Sloan L et al (2001) Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present. Science 292:686–693PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Bickford
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sam D. Howard
    • 1
  • Daniel J. J. Ng
    • 1
  • Jennifer A. Sheridan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeRepublic of Singapore

Personalised recommendations