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Keywords:

  • amphibian decline;
  • global warming;
  • species extinction risk;
  • upper thermal tolerance;
  • warming tolerance

Abstract

Predicting the biodiversity impacts of global warming implies that we know where and with what magnitude these impacts will be encountered. Amphibians are currently the most threatened vertebrates, mainly due to habitat loss and to emerging infectious diseases. Global warming may further exacerbate their decline in the near future, although the impact might vary geographically. We predicted that subtropical amphibians should be relatively susceptible to warming-induced extinctions because their upper critical thermal limits (CTmax) might be only slightly higher than maximum pond temperatures (Tmax). We tested this prediction by measuring CTmax and Tmax for 47 larval amphibian species from two thermally distinct subtropical communities (the warm community of the Gran Chaco and the cool community of Atlantic Forest, northern Argentina), as well as from one European temperate community. Upper thermal tolerances of tadpoles were positively correlated (controlling for phylogeny) with maximum pond temperatures, although the slope was steeper in subtropical than in temperate species. CTmax values were lowest in temperate species and highest in the subtropical warm community, which paradoxically, had very low warming tolerance (CTmaxTmax) and therefore may be prone to future local extinction from acute thermal stress if rising pond Tmax soon exceeds their CTmax. Canopy-protected subtropical cool species have larger warming tolerance and thus should be less impacted by peak temperatures. Temperate species are relatively secure to warming impacts, except for late breeders with low thermal tolerance, which may be exposed to physiological thermal stress in the coming years.