Imagine walking through a forest trail with sunlight warmly beaming through the trees onto your skin. You take a moment to breathe in the serenity, listening to only the rustle of leaves through the light breeze and a faint peeping melody pleasantly ringing into your ears. You close your eyes and smile … just as something wet and slimy springs onto your leg. You look down and see a little frog (What did you think that peeping noise was?).
Now, should you A. Run and scream, B. Slap the creature off your leg and apathetically continue with your walk, or C. Gently place the little guy back on his way and say, “Hey, thanks little buddy for all you’ve done for me and my species?”
The correct answer is C. Frogs are more valuable to you and the environment than you may have ever guessed. They, along with other amphibians, are also among the world’s most threatened groups of animals with over one-third of all amphibian species being classified as endangered (that means an estimated 6,300 species are at the risk of extinction). Slimy or not, our froggy friends need our help and protection.
Frogs Point Out When Something’s Not Right
Wild frogs have the amazing ability to indicate when something is wrong with the environment. Hence, why they are known as bioindicators.
With their permeable skin and ability to absorb/concentrate toxins, frogs are the first to know about chemical contaminants, parasites, too much ultra violet radiation, and disease in their environment. Have you ever seen a frog with extra or missing limbs, missing eyes, or abnormal webbing? These could be signs of problems within the ecosystem. Plus, if frogs are disappearing, we definitely know there’s something very wrong and other species might be next (including humans)!
Frogs Keep the Ecological Peace
Frogs actually keep entire ecosystems alive. How’s that for being green, Kermit? These animals play important roles in maintaining species diversity. They keep insect populations under control, including insects such as mosquitoes that are vectors for disease (e.g. dengue fever, West Nile virus, malaria, etc.).
Frogs are essential food sources for many animals, including snakes, hawks, owls, and other birds of prey, foxes, raccoons, lizards, otters, weasels, turtles, fish, larger frogs, herons and egrets, and many others. According to Dr. Kerry Kriger, Founder and Executive Director of Save the Frogs, “When we save the frogs, we’re protecting all our wildlife, all our ecosystems and all humans.”
Also, since many species of frogs and other amphibians have both aquatic and terrestrial life stages, they transfer nutrients from water to land and vice versa. That means, if amphibians disappear, not only would predator and prey populations be affected, but algae communities, leaf litter decomposition, and nutrient cycling would also be drastically altered.
Why Are The Frogs Disappearing?
Unfortunately, frogs are disappearing mostly due to human impacts. Factors such as pesticides and herbicides, habitat degradation, deforestation, climate change, and acid rain all devastatingly affect our little friends.
Within the last twenty years, frogs have also been affected by a chytrid fungus that causes deformities such as missing or additional limbs of juvenile frogs. These deformities don’t allow frogs to stand a chance for survival. Biologists are currently uncertain as to how the fungus appeared and how it started devastating frog populations. However, one theory is that the fungus did previously exist, but frogs are now more susceptible to it due to other environmental impacts, causing their immune responses to be compromised.
How We Can Help Our Frog Friends!
So, as cute and romantic as kissing frogs may seem, there are other ways to show our love. In fact, over-handling frogs and other amphibians can actually dry out their skin and cause more harm than good. Here are just a few ways we can actually help frogs:
- Share this post and encourage others to start caring about frogs!
- Organize a “Save the Frogs” Day event.
- Build a pond for your friendly neighborhood frogs.
- Reduce the need for using chemical fertilizers in your garden or yard by composting.
- Use alternatives to pesticides in your garden and home.
- Write to your local and federal government representative to encourage increased conservation efforts for wetland habitats (and other places where frogs love to chill).
- Learn to be a wildlife advocate for amphibians.