Amphibians matter to humans more than we mean to them. The number of amphibians has been plummeting at an incredibly rapid rate, and this decline poses a great threat.
The canary in the coal mine
Those numbers matter because a major decline in the amphibian population can cause a major decline in the health and sustainability of our ecosystem as a whole, and a deteriorating ecosystem means the deterioration of the quality of human life. Amphibians can help us in numerous ways — from assessing the general health of our ecosystems, to pest control, water filtration and medical research.
Their greatest contribution is that they serve as "bioindicators" for scientists — markers that allow scientists to clearly identify the need for biological examination. Amphibian Ark reports that because of their incredibly thin skin, amphibians are much more susceptible to disease.
If an area has a large number of amphibians that exhibit signs of disease, it's clear the area isn't as healthy as it should be. Scientists follow the health of amphibians to pinpoint locations that suffer from negative environmental factors. By observing these factors, scientists can determine which areas demand attention and where they should conduct their studies.
In addition, amphibians are an integral part of the circle of life, as they consume many mosquitoes and insects while also serving as prey for larger animals.
Because of amphibians' appetites for mosquitoes, they're able to help reduce the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria. Keeping the mosquito population in check also prevents possible dangers to crops that would otherwise be destroyed by mosquitoes. Amphibian Ark notes that areas in which a significant decline in amphibian population has occurred, the number of insects that pose disease- or crop-related threats has increased.
A 2014 study also showed that even though many fish prey on mosquitoes, salamanders are helpful in mitigating mosquito populations in ephemeral wetlands where fish are unable to survive. This means that amphibians can be of great help in a variety of terrains and pick up the slack where other creatures are unable to do so.
Amphibians also offer important contributions to keeping our water clean. Tadpoles are able to help maintain clean water by feeding on the algae that would otherwise cause contamination if left uneaten, Save The Frogs reports.
According to Amphibian Ark, chemical compounds secreted from the skin of frogs can be slightly modified to help treat a myriad of different diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. The chemical compounds can also be useful in treating depression, seizure disorders, and can even be effective as a stimulant for heart attack victims.
The Australian red-eyed tree-frog and its relatives possess chemical compounds that can be used as prevention for HIV. Due to the organic chemical compounds that exist within frogs, we are able to make advancements in medicine that might otherwise be impossible.
Amphibians broaden our research abilities by allowing us to learn more about bodies and our environment — giving us the means to sustain many aspects of human life and the world in which we thrive.