Why are frog populations declining?
Midwest frog numbers are on the decline. What does this mean for the environment?
Friday, November 25, 2011 - 23:58
PIERCING CALL: A spring peeper calls out into the air to attract a mate. (Photo: Natures Details/Flickr)
Amphibian populations are declining around the world. It has become visible in the Midwest — especially in the case of frogs.
Illinois is home to a large number of frog species, including the cricket frog, the spring peeper and the American bullfrog. The cricket frog species is experiencing an especially serious decline, and this will most certainly have an effect on the environment. Spring peepers are also declining, to a lesser extent. The American bullfrog, in contrast, is a non-native species and is actually thought to be a factor contributing to the decline of native frog species such as spring peepers and cricket frogs.
The decline in frogs is caused by a number of other factors, most of which are human-based. One of the most common causes is habitat modification. When humans expand the places they live, they often destroy many natural areas along the way, a lot of which are wetlands and other places where frogs live. The frogs will eventually die off if they do not find another place that meets their needs. Pollution and toxins in water are other factors. Toxic chemicals can cause birth defects in frogs, as well as impair their development. If the frog population as a whole is very unhealthy, it is unlikely that they will reproduce successful, healthy offspring to further the survival of the species. The depletion of the ozone layer might also have a factor in this, since it allows more ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth's surface. UV radiation can harm DNA, causing mutations and birth defects.
Why should we worry about frogs disappearing?
The frog population decline is important for a number of reasons. For one, the health of amphibian species in general is a good environmental indicator. Amphibians are very sensitive to toxins and pollutants, since they absorb water through their skin. If there are unhealthy chemicals in the water, amphibians will be affected first because they absorb them directly. The healthier an area is, the more likely a frog population is to flourish there.
Frogs are also major species in many ecosystems, including wetlands, ponds and lakes. Wetlands are especially important because they are able to filter out toxic chemicals and sediment buildup. If frog species begin to decline, the entire ecosystem is affected, usually negatively. It is important that these ecosystems stay the way they are, since ecosystem disruption and imbalance is never a good thing.
How to protect frogs
There are measures being taken to save frogs, and there is a fair number of groups that aim to preserve amphibian populations. Amphibian Ark is one such organization, and it specializes in ex situ conservation. Ex situ means taking a group of animals out of a threatened habitat and placing them somewhere where they will be safe and able to flourish. Doing this with amphibian populations helps ensure that they will continue to breed and populate.
If you would like to get involved in helping frogs, there are several things you can do. First of all, don't release your pets into the wild, as they negatively impact ecosystems (and pets that are natural predators will eat frogs as prey). It is also good to be environmentally considerate in general, since human consumption and expansion directly affect frog populations in many ways. If you want to help frogs directly, you can create a small pond in your back yard to build a small wetland habitat. Operation Frog Pond is an organization that has volunteers create frog ponds and measure the frog species that come to live there.
Frog populations are something that people need to pay more attention to, and if more people do small things to help, the frog populations will hopefully regain some of their stability.
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