Save Our Frogs!
What's causing these problems in our Frog populations?
While researchers are still far from finding any definitive answers, some of the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together. For one thing, there's a lot of different kinds of data to take into account. Not all species of amphibians are in trouble. For example, there don't seem to be the same devastating effects on salamanders, and some frogs are actuially increasing in numbers rather than decreasing. This suggests that it's probably not just a single, planet-wide phenomenon. Instead, it's probably a whole bunch of different things contributing to the problems...some of which might even be made worse by others!
These factors probably include such things as destruction of natural habitat, increases in ultra-violet radiation (and the decrease of the Ozone layer), pesticides, industrial pollution, acid rain, changes in temperature, introduction of new predators or competitors into breeding areas, diseases, and even just natural population fluctuations.
Activities such as logging of forests and drainage of wetlands has obvious and pretty bad effects on amphibians: they get kicked out of their homes. In some places the rainforests are in danger of being completely wiped out! Just think of all the different types of frogs that we still havent discovered that we'll never get to find if their habitat dissapears!
Depletion of our Ozone Layer
Increases in ultra-violet (UV) radiation as a result of the earth's thinning ozone layer may also have lethal affects on amphibians. Experiments in the laboratory and in the field have shown that UV radiation interferes with the development of eggs in some species. Increased UV levels may have even worse effects in higher elevations, where levels are already high.
Pollution, Pesticides, and Acid Rain
Frogs breath and drink through their skin, so pollution, pesticides, and acid rain have really devastating effects on them. This is particularly true in their developmental stages. In addition, chemicals can interfere with a frog's natural ability to fight off diseases and infection. Considering how it's a bad idea to even handle frogs when you can avoid it, just imagine what chemicals spilled out of factories must do to the poor critters!
Competition and Predators
Sometimes fish that aren't native to an area are introduced to new lakes. This can spell big trouble for local frogs, particularly in the case of so-called "sport-fish" which EAT all the tadpoles and can completely wipe out a frog population. Fish aren't the only threat though: for example, Cuban treefrogs hitched rides in banana boats from Cuba to the U.S. These are now the largest species of treefrog in North America. With an amazing appetite, the Cuban treefrogs didn't wait long before they started devouring all the smaller local frogs!
Frogs have recently become quite popular as they are a very good symbol of the health of our environment. They are in many ways the "canary in the coal mine," signalling the overall need for protection of our global ecosystem.
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