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Costa Rica's Climate Crisis: The Golden Toad's Demise Unveils a Terrifying Extinction Tango

For just a few days every year, the elfin cloud forest of Costa Rica came alive with crowds of golden toads the length of a child's thumb, emerging from the undergrowth to mate at rain-swelled pools. In this mysterious woodland where the clouds drape over mountain ridges and the trees are dwarfed and wind-sculpted, the golden toads stood out like animal figurines amidst the moss-laden landscape. Those lucky enough to have seen them will never forget.

Then in 1990, they were gone. The golden toad was the first species where climate change has been identified as a key driver of extinction, and its fate could be just the beginning.

For years, researchers have warned that the world is facing both a climate and a biodiversity crisis, increasingly intertwined. Even if warming is capped at the ambitious target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, nearly one in 10 of all species face an extinction threat.

Climate change was barely on the research radar when the golden toad disappeared, but its fingerprints have since been seen in other disappearances. The expansion of the chytrid fungus globally, along with local climate change, is implicated in the extinction of a wide range of tropical amphibians. Today, climate change is listed as a direct threat to thousands of species, with over 5,000 at risk of extinction. It's a terrifying reality, one that demands action beyond traditional conservation efforts.

In Costa Rica's Monteverde, even the clouds have changed, impacting the delicate ecosystem and its inhabitants. But amidst the challenges, hope remains. Conservation efforts persist, and the best way to combat this crisis is through education and action.

That's why initiatives like Appleseed Expeditions school trips to Costa Rica are crucial. By allowing students to witness and interact with wildlife firsthand, these trips foster a connection to nature and inspire a passion for conservation. Engaging students in volunteer conservation programs further strengthens this connection, empowering them to become stewards of the environment for future generations.

In the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, education and action are our most powerful tools. Together, we can work towards a future where the golden toad's demise serves not as a warning of what we've lost, but as a rallying cry for what we can still save.

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