Experimental evidence for beneficial effects of projected climate change on hibernating amphibians

Bálint Üveges, Katharina Mahr, Márk Szederkényi, Veronika Bókony, Herbert Hoi, Attila Hettyey

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Abstract

Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrates today, experiencing worldwide declines. In recent years considerable effort was invested in exposing the causes of these declines. Climate change has been identified as such a cause; however, the expectable effects of predicted milder, shorter winters on hibernation success of temperate-zone Amphibians have remained controversial, mainly due to a lack of controlled experimental studies. Here we present a laboratory experiment, testing the effects of simulated climate change on hibernating juvenile common toads (Bufo bufo). We simulated hibernation conditions by exposing toadlets to current (1.5 °C) or elevated (4.5 °C) hibernation temperatures in combination with current (91 days) or shortened (61 days) hibernation length. We found that a shorter winter and milder hibernation temperature increased survival of toads during hibernation. Furthermore, the increase in temperature and shortening of the cold period had a synergistic positive effect on body mass change during hibernation. Consequently, while climate change may pose severe challenges for amphibians of the temperate zone during their activity period, the negative effects may be dampened by shorter and milder winters experienced during hibernation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26754
JournalScientific reports
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 27 2016

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