Who killed the Golden Toads? Not Global Warming, but…

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A new study shows that the extinction of Monteverde golden toads in the Andes in the 1980s was not caused by global warming.  Earlier widely publicised studies said global warming was the cause.  The authors of the new study, however, are careful to warn us that global warming may cause ecosystem stresses that may cause extinctions.  This is what happened, and why they give that warning in spite of their study’s conclusions.

The Monteverde golden toad disappeared from Costa Rica Pacific coastal forest in the late 1980s, killed by the chytrid fungus.   Many researchers have linked outbreaks of the deadly fungus to climate change.

In a 2006 paper in Nature, a team of U.S. and Latin American scientists linked rising tropical temperatures to the disappearance of 64 amphibian species in Central and South America.  “Disease is the bullet killing frogs, but climate change is pulling the trigger,” the lead author of the Nature study and a research scientist at the Monteverde reserve, J. Alan Pounds, said at the time.

A new study by Kevin J Anchukaitis of Columbia University and Michael N Evans of the University of Maryland, says it was El Nino, not climate change or global warming, that caused the fungus to thrive, killing the golden toad. “El Niño pulled the trigger,” said Anchukaitis.  El Nino always dries up the area in which the toads lived, which maked them congregate closely together in the few pools that remain.  So all were exposed to the fungus, which wiped them out completely.

This latest study shows that El Nino is the cause of the extinction of the golden toads.  It shows conclusively that there was no discernible long-term trend visible in the circumstances of that event.  At a time when the IPCC is making dire predictions of mass extinctions caused by global warming, and cites events like the extinction of the golden toad as evidence that it is already happening, that is refreshing.  And that should be that.  The earlier study was yet another of the many climate change studies that have blamed global warming for every possible disaster, and predicted more catastrophes to come if we don’t take firm action to stop it.

But wait.  Anchukaitis and Evans then talk about what their study definitely did not show.

In their Q&A section of the study, the authors say “Both the rate and magnitude of ongoing and future climate change are very likely to put additional stresses on ecosystems. In combination with land use change, introduced pathogens, pollution, and other related ecological changes, anthropogenic climate change will undoubtedly play a role in future extinctions.”  And Evans says extinctions happen for reasons that are independent of human-caused climate change, but that does not mean human-caused climate change can’t cause extinctions”.

No part of their study supports those statements.  So why do they depart from the legitimate findings of their study when they are supposedly discussing the study?

Because their sources of present or future funding expect warnings about global warming to be communicated with the findings.  Even when the study conclusions in no way support those warnings.  Them’s the rules.  That’s the tune the men with the money expect the pipers to play.

By the way, their results in the new study are only the latest challenge to the theory that climate change is driving the deadly chytrid outbreaks in the Americas. In a 2008 paper in the journal PLoS Biology, University of Maryland biologist Karen Lips mapped the loss of harlequin frogs from Costa Rica to Panama.  She found that their decline followed the step-by-step pattern of an emerging infectious disease, affecting frogs in the mountains but not the lowlands.  Had the outbreak been climate-induced, she said, the decline should have moved up and down the mountains over time.





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