Climate Change

Reptiles and amphibians are vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their strong dependency on environmental conditions and sensitivity to changes in weather, temperature and moisture regimens. Assessment of the effect of climate change on the Massasauga Rattlesnake found that this species was likely to decline throughout its range as a result of increases in the frequency of severe weather events such as flooding and drought.

Climate change can also affect phenology (the timing of annual life-history events), and several studies have documented changes in the timing of spring frog calls. It is also possible that warmer summer temperatures may eliminate male offspring in some turtle species with temperature-dependant sex determination. Climate change also has the potential to exacerbate other stressors. For example, milder winters resulting from climate change may increase the vulnerability of reptile and amphibian populations to infectious diseases.

Further Reading

Janzen, F.J. 1994. Climate change and temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 91(16):7487–90.

Klaus, S.P. and S.C. Lougheed. 2013. Changes in breeding phenology of eastern Ontario frogs over four decades. Ecology and Evolution 3 (4): 835–845.

Pomara, L.Y., O. LeDee, K.J. Martin and B. Zuckerberg. 2014. Demographic consequences of climate change and land cover help explain a history of extirpations and range contraction in a declining snake species. Global Change Biology 20: 2087–2099. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12510

Walpole, A.A., J. Bowman, D.C. Tozer and D.S. Badzinski. 2012. Community-level response to climate change; shifts in anuran calling phenology. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 7(2): 249–257.