Hope in the Face of the Latest Research on Amphibian Declines

A study released on October 4 (Luedtke et al., 2023) contains some bad news for amphibians; they are still the most threatened group of vertebrates on Earth. It’s easy to feel less than hopeful when reading Luedtke et al.’s (2023) study, which provides a global assessment of the conservation status of amphibians. 

Alternatively, we can use this and other research like it as motivation to garner the perseverance needed to continue our tireless work for at-risk salamanders and frogs and draw strength from each other as we see the progress we’re making for these species. When we come together to meet the challenges faced by the world’s most vulnerable inhabitants, our collective action results in something that wouldn’t be possible as individuals — hope. It’s grounded in the knowledge that what we do now, together, could very well make the difference between imperiled amphibians persisting into the future or not. 

Luedtke et al. (2023) reported that approximately 41% of amphibian species are at risk, meaning they’ve been classified as globally threatened, critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. In addition, two out of every five amphibian species are in danger of extinction.

What’s even more troubling is the fact that over 60% of salamanders are at risk of extinction. When thinking about where wildlife conservation is needed most, tropical rainforests spring to mind for many people. However, North America is home to about half the world’s salamander species, and more specifically, the southern Appalachian Mountains are the global hotspot of salamander diversity. In the US, potential extinction is a problem threatening the beautiful species in our own backyard.

The report also illuminates the fact that amphibians are up against a trio of major challenges: habitat loss, climate change, and disease. When combined with the other issues they face, from illegal poaching to invasive species, these impacts could be enough to cause the extinction of several species. 

However, the report also provides a way forward for amphibians and those of us who want to save them. Its findings reinforce that effective habitat management and restoration, along with the integration of priority amphibian sites within the landscape to recover populations, is the key to saving amphibians. 

With focused habitat protection and targeted actions for threatened and endangered amphibians, such as headstarting (captive rearing) of gopher frogs and frosted flatwoods salamanders, we can turn the tide for these beautiful and crucial members of our ecosystems. With limited resources and time, though, we have to be strategic and aim our efforts at what will matter most for frogs and salamanders.

ARC’s on-the-ground habitat protection and restoration efforts do just this. We’re working to help increase the size, connectivity, and frequency of amphibian populations across the landscape. Our approach centers around a national strategy implemented locally in 317 Priority Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Areas, or PARCAs, spanning 24 US states. These PARCAs were chosen because they contain either high densities of amphibians and reptiles or large numbers of threatened and endangered species – or, in many cases, both. We currently have boots on the ground in 20 of them.

The actions taking place in PARCAs serve to bolster amphibians by increasing population sizes, increasing the number of populations, and connecting populations so that genes can flow and inbreeding is less likely (in other words, increasing genetic diversity). Populations with more individuals have a better chance of survival because of higher genetic diversity. Also, the greater the number of populations across the landscape, the lower the risk the entire species will be decimated by a catastrophic event. 

Together with our community, we’re giving frogs and salamanders across the US a much-needed boost to help reverse the trends reported by Luedtke et al. (2023) and provide the hope we need to persevere. After all, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”


Luedtke, J.A., Chanson, J., Neam, K. et al. 2023. Ongoing declines for the world’s amphibians in the face of emerging threats. Nature 2023: 1-16. Accessed 04 Oct. 2023. <https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-06578-4>.