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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. See footnote 1.

Abbreviations

CCSM:

Community Climate System Model

ENSO:

El Niño Southern Oscillation

IPCC:

International Panel on Climate Change

NPP:

Net primary productivity

TSD:

Temperature-dependant sex determination

UV:

Ultraviolet

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Acknowledgements

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 (http://www.ccsm.ucar.edu), 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 (http://www.gisclimatechange.org). We thank Maureen Donnelly and her lab and an anonymous reviewer for constructive and insightful comments that improved the manuscript considerably.

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Bickford, D., Howard, S.D., Ng, D.J.J. et al. Impacts of climate change on the amphibians and reptiles of Southeast Asia. Biodivers Conserv 19, 1043–1062 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9782-4

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Keywords

  • Amphibians
  • Climate change
  • Conservation
  • Extinction
  • Reptiles
  • Southeast Asia
  • Policy