Bornean Rainbow Toad

Wonder of the Wild: Amphibians

In addition to their intrinsic value, amphibians have significant ecological, evolutionary, cultural, economic, scientific, medical, and educational importance – as well as being potential indicators of many aspects of environmental quality.

Exquisitely adapted to life on both land and in water, the features that make amphibians special and successful also make them very sensitive to environmental change. When changes occur too fast, many species cannot adapt to the altered conditions quickly enough to survive and they disappear. The most sensitive species usually disappear first, a sign that ecosystems are unhealthy and may be at risk of collapse. The threats to amphibians – habitat destruction and degradation, emerging infectious diseases, climate change, invasive species and overexploitation – are increasing as human activities transform terrestrial and aquatic environments. Amphibians are a weathervane in the modern-day storm of extinctions: if we watch them, we can tell when dangerous changes are afoot for both nature and people.

Wallace's Flying Frog

Wallace's Flying Frog, Rhacaphorus nigropalmatus, in the Borneo Highlands of Sarawak. Photo by: Robin Moore, GWC

IUCN Red List

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is where the coordinated global response to the extinction crisis begins. Widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant, animal and fungi species, the IUCN Red List provides conservation biologists, local communities, governments, and even private companies with information on where species occur and in what numbers, how close those species may be to edge of extinction, and what threats are pushing them toward that edge.

GWC supports projects and initiatives that feed into the IUCN Red List for numerous groups of species. One such initiative is the second Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA2), run by the Amphibian Red List Authority of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG). GWC supports this specialist group in large part because  amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians) are the among the most threatened vertebrate groups.

Through its global network of experts and partner organizations, ASG compiles the most up-to-date data for every known amphibian species, including taxonomy, distribution, population trends, habitat and ecology, threats, conservation actions in-place or those that are necessary, and research needs. GWC’s support ensures that the ASG can continue providing relevant extinction risk assessments to the global community through the IUCN Red List. Ongoing reassessment is vital if the IUCN Red List is to serve as the global Barometer of Life: an indicator of biodiversity trends over time.

Wild Facts
Amphibians have existed on this planet for more than 300 million years
Amphibians remain the most threatened group of vertebrates
Top threat is habitat loss caused by human activities

Second Global Amphibian Assessment

With close to 8,000 amphibian species known to science—and new ones discovered nearly every day—keeping the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species up to date is no easy task. Prior to 2004, fewer than 1,000 amphibian species had been assessed and were primarily the ones found in Australia, North America and Europe. In 2004, scientists and conservationists completed the first Global Amphibian Assessment, the first comprehensive study of the conservation status of all known species in the world. The second Global Amphibian Assessment is now underway and the ASG is working to update all of the 2004 assessments and complete the first-time assessments for nearly 2,000 newly described species.

Borneo Eared Frog

A young Borneo Eared Frog, Polypedates otilophus, with unusual markings in the rainforests of the Borneo Highlands in Sarawak. Photo by: Robin Moore

The project goals are to:

  • Complete a massive data update for the IUCN Red List in collaboration with a global network of experts and local partners by the end of 2020, assessing the extinction risk of all amphibian species by geographical region.
  • Determine changes in the risk of extinction (conservation status) over time using a Red List Index and to identify the drivers behind those changes.
  • Inform the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan and work with partners to implement conservation actions based on the assessments, including habitat preservation through our wildlands work, identifying Key Biodiversity Areas for protection, monitoring threatened species, and securing the recovery of key species groups through in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts.
Global Amphibian Assessment Map

Note: Regions not included in the 2019-2020 workplan have been completed.


(Top Photo: Bornean Rainbow Toad, Robin Moore/GWC)

Get The Details

Species Red List StatusPopulationLocation StatusPartners

7,993+ amphibians (2019)
42% Threatened


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