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Scientist warns of mass Haiti extinctions

Nov. 16, 2010 at 6:58 PM   |   Comments

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. biologist says Haiti is on the brink of experiencing mass extinctions like the times when dinosaurs and other species suddenly disappeared from Earth.

Penn State biology Professor Blair Hedges says captive breeding, gene preservation and other species-rescue programs are needed for Haiti's threatened frogs and other species, a university release said.

"During the next few decades, many Haitian species of plants and animals will become extinct because the forests where they live, which originally covered the entire country, are nearly gone," Hedges said.

"The decline of frogs in particular, because they are especially vulnerable, is a biological early-warning signal of a dangerously deteriorating environment, just as a dying canary is an early-warning sign of dangerously deteriorating air in a coal mine," he said.

Hedges has discovered at least five new frog species during three expeditions to Haiti this year, but he was unable to find two species that may now be extinct because they have not been seen in 25 years.

Frog species have been disappearing worldwide during the last 10 to 20 years, and one-third of the 6,000 frog species on Earth now are threatened with extinction, researchers say.

But 92 percent of Haiti's 50 frog species are threatened, the highest percentage of any country in the world.

"Less than 1 percent of the original forest is left in Haiti, which is a lower percentage than in any other country that I know of," Hedges said. "There definitely is no other place in the western half of the world -- and some scientists would argue in the entire world -- where the extinction threat is greater than in Haiti."

Topics: Blair Hedges
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