Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!

BYU herpetologist documents declining lizard populations due to climate change

BYU’s own Jack Sites has for over thirty years documented the decline of lizards due to climate change. Check out the recent paper he coauthored in Science and the write-up and video at BYU.

Another example in the overwhelming landslide of peer reviewed published papers documenting worldwide ecological collapse due to anthropogenic induced planetary warming.

Be Sociable, Share!

46 comments to BYU herpetologist documents declining lizard populations due to climate change

  • I am curious if there is any data showing that the extinction rate of species has increased with humans walking the earth. I would imagine it has (for obvious reasons), but I am still curious.

    That said, it is always said to hear of specific species are going extinct, especially when it may be related to manmade problems. (Like pollution.)

  • Gustav375

    Nnnoooooo!!!!

  • Your description makes a cognitive leap, from a general trend of climate change (largely undisputed) to evidence specifically for anthropogenic induced planetary warming (much more hotly disputed). Evidence for one is not necessarily evidence for the other.

  • “(much more hotly disputed)” In the public’s discourse. Not in science peer-reviewed literature (see my post on conspiracy theories). It’s as established as extrasolar planets scientifically. If you are talking about ‘scientific’ evidence, anthropogenic warming is very well established and credentialed. If you are talking about internet sites making pseudo-scientific claims, yeah the evidence is in depute.

  • Stan

    I loved catching lizards as a kid. I imagine though that what we’ll see is that the more hardy species will fill in the gaps. We will still have lizards to chase, just fewer varieties. I think many people are deceived by the thriving amount of life on the planet and fail to appreciate the diminishing diversity.

    As I understand it, the same thing is happening to many species of amphibian. What is it about these species that make them more sensitive to climate change?

  • Thanks for posting this, Steve. Herpetology is my field, and I thought I knew something about reptiles until I came to BYU and took Herpetology and Conservation Biology from Dr. Sites and worked for him in his lab and museum collection.

    I saw Duke University’s Anne Yoder speak about the effects of climate change on Malagasy fauna a few weeks ago in the Tanner lecture series. Add that to the mountainous heap of growing evidence.

    I sometimes wonder if collection from those sites can further enhance the influence that climate change and other pressures already have on those populations? I’ve seen the large jars of Liolaemus lizards brought back from Patagonia down in the basement of the Bean Museum. Sometimes about a hundred per jar. Guess I’ll have to read the paper! I’m sure collecting has been worked into the stats and data? Being a rookie biologist, I’m still trying to understand how that works.

  • “As I understand it, the same thing is happening to many species of amphibian. What is it about these species that make them more sensitive to climate change?”

    Stan, in reference to amphibs, I’ll attempt to answer to the best of my knowledge.

    A lot of it has to do with their physiology, anatomy, and life history.

    Since, they are born in the water as larvae (i.e tadpoles), they depend in more ways than one on clean water. Throughout their lives, they’re always around water so that they don’t desiccate. Of course, they also spend time on land.

    And here’s the kicker. Their pelts are *extremely* permeable — they don’t even drink — they absorb water through their skin, along with whatever cocktail of chemicals that happen to be floating in it. They also readily absorb water and other chemicals on land while sitting or crawling in soil, and they absorb atmospheric particles through the air. Also, whether laid on land in damp soil, in water, or open air hanging from a leaf, their eggs have very little protective covering — only a jelly-like membrane. So, ANYthing that changes physically or chemically in land, water, or air is felt FIRST by amphibians. They’ve been called ‘environmental indicators’ and ‘canaries in a coal mine’ by ecologists, since they’re usually the first to go extinct if something goes a rye.

    A very aggressive chytrid fungus has been whiping out frogs and toads the world over for the past few years, and it wasn’t even discovered until 1998 at the National Zoo in D.C. It’s possible that climate change has influenced its virulence.

  • Steve, you miss my point. You state: “Another example in the overwhelming landslide of peer reviewed published papers documenting worldwide ecological collapse due to anthropogenic induced planetary warming.”

    However, the paper doesn’t at all address anthropogenic induced planetary warming. Whether the climate is changing and whether it’s primarily anthropogenic are two separate issues, and evidence for one is not necessarily evidence for the other.

  • SteveP

    Sorry Nathan I did. Often that is said with the implication that the evidence for the well-established anthropogenic cause of climate change is suspect or lacking. I read more into what you were saying just force of habit. However, I did not put this forth as evidence of anthropogenic warming, but an example of the harms that are arising because of it, that show the need for action is growing critical. The robust evidences come from other studies and models. However there is the suggestion in your comment on ‘dispute’ that there is a scientific one. There is not.

  • >>”However, the paper doesn’t at all address anthropogenic induced planetary warming.”

    Nathan,

    Well, it wouldn’t address that, would it. I mean, the paper’s not about testing whether or not global climate warming is human-caused or not; it’s about it’s affects on lizard populations. Leave the causes of climate change to the climatologists, and the biology to the biologists. It just so happens that evidence for anthropogenic induced climate change is well-established in science, and biologists can invoke that data with reasonable confidence.

  • peckhive

    Dusty, thanks for all of your comments here! Your take on amphibians appreciated.

  • David H Bailey

    But Steve, we all know that global warming is a hoax — Glenn Beck himself said so:
    http://www.climatechangefraud.com/videos/333-glenn-beck-the-great-global-warming-swindle

  • steveP

    And David, the Utah State Legislature passed a resolution to that effect.

    (Reminds me of 1897 when the Indiana House of Representatives passed a resolution that pi = 3.2).

  • David H Bailey

    Actually, the Indiana House was wrong, along with all of those atheist mathematicians. It says right here in the Bible that pi = 3.0:

    “Also, he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” (1 Kings 7:23; see also 2 Chron. 4:2).

  • My point in bringing up the public dispute isn’t that I have a dog in the race, but that your original entry was phrased in such a way that “because A is proven, you conspiracy nuts should shut up about B.” (The intent to sound like that may have been absent, of course; it just follows a very common pattern in political opinioneering, and global warming is a very political issue.)

  • >>”…and global warming is a very political issue.”

    It’s a scientific fact *made* political. A lot like Evolution.

  • “Reminds me… Indiana House of Representatives passed a resolution that pi = 3.2″

    What! They didn’t even round correctly! :)

    It never ceases to amaze me what politicians can get away with in the science front.

  • Stan

    Oh my heck
    Steve Peck
    They must listen to Glenn Beck

    I feel sorry for you
    they read your posts and respond with woo
    scientific facts they poo poo

    Ok, someone else take it from here…

  • Jack

    I simply cannot believe that a 1 degree (or less) rise in temperature — which is well within the bounds of natural variability — is to blame for so many horrific scenarios around the globe. I bet, if there were money it, that there could be just as much literature published on what is good about a little warming.

  • Jack

    Here’s a fun link:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

    Yes, indeed, everything is caused by global warming.

  • >>”…and global warming is a very political issue.”

    It’s a scientific fact *made* political. A lot like Evolution.

    And thus?

  • Rich

    Jack,

    It’s not just 1 degree — in some areas, it’s several degrees, and yes, it makes for tremendous differences to sensitive species. Doesn’t matter whether you “believe” it or not, that’s why science trumps belief. But human impact on planet earth is far vaster than “mere” warming. Acidification of the oceans, deforestation, overfishing of the oceans, air, water and land pollution, herbicides and pesticides, disruption of fresh water supplies — the list goes on and on and on. Humans have taken their “dominion” far beyond God’s intent, and are wreaking desolation with it.

    This article was discussed on NPR’s Science Friday today — very interesting, and very sad.

    Stan, odds fish, the man is a poet, what, and we, did not know it! (hat tip to Scarlet Pimpernel).

  • Jack

    Rich,

    I have no doubt that humans are affecting the ecosystem in all of those ways to some degree — even by causing a little warming. But I cannot be persuaded that science is so objective as to not get caught in the web of unsubstantiated belief.

  • Jack, while one degree does not sound like much it causes huge huge disruption to the heat exchange system of the planet. It’s not just the warming that is bad, it’s the variance it causes in the heat exchange system. That’s why ocean ph is going up, droughts in Africa, the Middle East, Australia, China, and other disruptions. If it were just a little warmer I’m not sure we would worry, but its effecting the way climate works on Earth and that can be bad for Earth’s ecosystems and people. The economics of major ecosystem collapse are going to make the costs of taking action now pale in comparison.

  • Jack

    SteveP: “The economics of major ecosystem collapse are going to make the costs of taking action now pale in comparison.”

    Thou almost persuadest me to become a denialist. You’re implying that the climate has been as smooth as glass for the last couple of eons — and that the slightest nudge hither or thither would send it spiraling out of control.

  • “looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man” D&C: 49:23

    (Who would have guessed it would have been caused by our addiction to carbon?)

    We know the natural variation, this is not it. (Again, despite abundant denier websites suggesting otherwise– see last post discussion on the science of climate models to nail this point home).

  • Jack

    Do we really know enough about positive feedback in the climate system? Enough, that is, to safely assume that climate models really have that kind of predictive power? I’m doubtful — especially when we’re talking untold trillions of tax payer’s dollars.

  • We can always doubt. Hume showed us that we can doubt causality itself if we wish. However, if you mean reasonable doubt, no. Trillion’s of dollars? Think about the risks. Suppose that Ocean pH continues to fall due to climate change (its acidifying faster than exception). Shell fish are very sensitive to pH in shell formation. What would the failure of plankton recruitment be? Failure up the food chain. What do more Hurricanes, Snow removal, floods, deserts, political destabilization cost? No one knows because no one knows how to take into account what the real effects will be. We just know its warming and that the ocean is going acidic. Of course, with the opening of the Northwest passage Europe/Russia can trade more easily with Japan and China, so there are goods depending on your location. Trillions saved by the avoiding the problem? Kind of like the money pocketed in not treating cancer.

    But if we are wrong? (We are only about 98% sure you know). Well, we’ll have developed an economy less dependent on a fossil fuels. Our grandchildren will praise our name for giving them a more energy efficient world. If we are right then they will praise our name for leaving them a world with it’s ecological riches. Either way they win. I think we owe them something.

  • Jack

    No, Steve. Science has shown us that we can doubt. The leading experts have shown us that we can doubt. Scientists flip-flop more than any politician ever could — and that’s as it should be. An honest scientist is one who will change his views when enlightened by new discovery.

    But when we are talking about policy, especially of this magnitude, I think it well within the scope of reason to allow a relatively young discipline to mature a little more before we join it’s ranks, hoist the Jolly Roger, and make war on an economy that has done more to alleviate poverty than any other social construct that has existed over the last few millennia.

  • Stan

    Jack,
    “I think it well within the scope of reason to allow a relatively young discipline to mature a little more before we join it’s ranks”

    I agree! Scientists should now precisely what is happening and what we can effectively do about it before recommending action.
    Just the other day I was watching the news with my wife. Those clowns in the gulf were trying in vain to plug the oil leak. I said Hey! They don’t even know what they are doing there. They should study the problem for a while until they better understand it, come up with a solution with will positively work the first time and THEN try to plug the leak. They don’t even know for sure what the effect of the leak will be! What a bunch of morons!

    As for scientists, they don’t know what they are doing either. They should leave things in the realm of the unknown to someone else.

  • Jack

    Stan,

    Nice cherry picking. I see that it’s not only the “deniers” who are cursed with that nasty habit.

    The first part of my sentence (the un-cherry picked part) reads: “But when we are talking about policy, especially of this magnitude…”

    Hopefully it won’t cost trillions in tax payer’s dollars to put a lid on that oil spill.

    Also, I don’t expect scientists to know everything. But when we’re talking about something that is so incredibly predictive in nature where policy makers really don’t have enough info to effectively weigh the risks of whatever action versus whatever non-action — it is then that we should expect a little less advocacy and a little more skepticism.

  • Jack,

    I am actually very convinced that global warming *influenced by humans* is happening. I think the data shows this and it seems to be the opinion of the majority of the scientific community. (Which is usually safe to follow as a general rule.)

    However, I will admit there still seems to be some very prominent scientists who remain unconvinced. I’ve always found this interesting. For example, the world renowned physicist Freeman Dyson.

    But again, you/me/we’d be wise to follow the consensus of the vast majority. Very seldom in history has such a majority been wrong. (Especially when the data seems so compelling.)

  • Jack

    Joseph Smidt,

    I’m pretty-well convinced that we are contributing to the warming. I’m just not convinced that we’re headed toward catastrophe. I’m also not quite convinced that the consensus is as robust as some believe. Yes, there seems to be a reigning consensus, but there is a lot of disagreement on a lot of different issues in the climate debate — especially(!) between those of differing disciplines.

  • Dave C.

    I hope you guys don’t mind me jumping in and disrupting your big Group Think session.

    “worldwide ecological collapse due to anthropogenic induced planetary warming.”
    - A euphemism for manmade global warming is ruining the world.

    Until we have a better idea of the cause of global warming, in response to crap and trade legislation, I say “Belay that order!”

    I admit you may be right. However, given that the world has natural cycles of warming and cooling and that these are driven by natural forces which have not been adequately controlled for statistically when evaluating the manmade global warming theory, you may be wrong.

    If all you manmade global warming fanatics go ahead with expensive legislation aimed at curbing CO2 emissions and your theory is right, you just might save the earth.

    If all you manmade global warming fanatics go ahead with expensive legislation aimed at curbing CO2 emissions and your theory is wrong, you will inevitably screw up our economy and end up wasting billions.
    Those billions could have been spent on more worthy causes like developing food replicators to curb starvation, building holo decks to improve recreation, and enhancing our exploration of the final frontier by developing warp core technology.

  • >>”…given that the world has natural cycles of warming and cooling.”

    Are you admitting belief in science based on indirect observation and inference?!

    There’s hope!

    Only problem is that the difference between those natural cycles of warming and this human-caused one (besides the cause) is that this one is happening at an exponential rate. In global warmings past, many organisms could adapt to the change, because it was much more gradual. And that’s a fact too.

  • Stan

    ” is that this one is happening at an exponential rate.”

    Because we are rapidly reintroducing CO2 that has been off the grid for 300 million years.

  • Jack

    Boloney. Yes we’re pumping an inordinate amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. But there ain’t no way that the present rate warming is unprecedented.

  • So we’ve essentially taken 100 million years of carbon sequestering (during the Permian) and thrown it into the atmosphere during the last 100 years. What do you think’s going to happen? That all the people actually studying the matter and taking the data and analyzing the data for as long as we can go back disagree with you Jack. Sorry, but the internet self-described dabblers and their attempts to relook at what they don’t understand are missing the boat on this one.

  • Jack

    SteveP,

    I agree with you that we’ve pumped a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. I disagree that the rate of warming has been unprecedented.

    And not *all* the people doing the research disagree with me — with respect to the rate of warming, that is.

  • The sad thing this is the kind of thing you see all over the internet. They don’t engage with the actual data presented but come up with juvenile, back-porch explanations, that mock the careful, studies of scientists on the ground who have thought deeply, tested hypotheses, checked alternative explications and have carefully studied the animals. Science education is in deep trouble in America if people honestly believe websites like this touch the science. Yes it really is Homer Simpson takes on Stephen Hawking.

  • Jack

    SteveP,

    Are you suggesting that a doubling of reptilian pets in American households over the last ten years has zero correlation with lizards disappearing from their natural habitats?

  • No I’m suggesting that the correlation is known and tracked, I’m suggesting that if you read the article you see many species that are not being harvested are disappearing, I’m suggesting that this is happening with habitat variables being watched so we know why its disappearing. I’m saying that such effects are well understood and that these internet sites are the equivalent of the kinds of suggestions a child makes when watching a diesel mechanic rebore an engine.

  • Jack

    SteveP,

    It’s like the polar bears. Yes, a threat to their survival may exist because of climate change. But that threat pales in comparison to the threat of being over hunted by humans (which thankfully has been mitigated by tighter restrictions).

    So it is with reptiles being sold on the black market. The industry is enormous — perhaps a much bigger problem for lizards in general than a .7 degree rise in temperature.

    That said, frankly I don’t think those doing research in species extinction are necessarily experts in the illegal trading of reptiles.

  • Jack said:

    “Are you suggesting that a doubling of reptilian pets in American households over the last ten years has zero correlation with lizards disappearing from their natural habitats?”

    It certainly has next-to-zero correlation with all 48 of the Mexican Sceloporus species in that paper.

    For several reasons.

    *I know the pet reptile industry backwards and forwards, and I know of NO one in the United States who keeps Mexican Scelops. Even the American species of that genus aren’t lizards that many people keep. They’re a nervous, difficult captive and usually short-lived. And the ones that do sell are cheap (usually $5 – $15). (One of the only companies I know of who sells them only has two right now, and they’re an American species. –> http://www.gherp.com/pricelist.php?filterCat=Lizards)

    *The pet reptile trade in Mexico is very scant. Almost non-existent and certainly not at all sophisticated. Nowhere near as robust as in the U.S. Europe, and Japan.

    *It has been illegal to export Mexican wildlife from Mexico for roughly the past 20 years or more. There are some Mexican animals in captivity, but the majority are descendants of animals collected before those laws were enforced. For example, I have written a book on the genus Bogertophis, and to my knowledge, there are none of the Durango Mexican subspecies (B. subocularis amplinotus) in captivity, although I know of many people who would like to own one, and would pay MUCH more than for a $10 Scleporus.

    *As per your link you shared, no one’s going to be making lizard-skin ANYthing out of Sceloporus skins. These are small lizards weighing a few grams a piece. It’d be like trying to make and sell rope out of Orthopteran antennae.

    Has the pet trade caused some extinctions? Sadly, yes. And you’re right that there could be a correlation with *some* taxa, but not very likely with Mexican Spiny Lizards.

  • Jack

    Well, I may stand corrected then.

    Still I wonder at the strange correlation between a sky-rocketing reptile industry and the loss of lizards from their habitat — however unmarketable a particular species may seem. And also, that according to some studies the illegal trafficking of reptiles has become the second largest black market industry in the world — drug trafficking being the first.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>