LET'S MAKE SURE THE FROGS KEEP CALLING
by Whit Gibbons
March 5, 2006
again about amphibians, especially frogs--we all have to learn a new term,
chytrid fungus. Amphibian biologists already know the word well because
of scientific evidence confirming that the fungus is responsible for the
deaths of frogs. In tropical America and Australia, the disease caused
by chytrid (pronounced kit-trid) fungus is already suspected of leading
some species to extinction.
news is that chytrid fungus has recently been reported on frogs in the
United States (mainly bullfrogs and leopard frogs). Although disease symptoms
have not yet been observed, U.S. herpetologists are keeping a watchful
eye, and ear, out to monitor the health and status of frog populations.
Most frogs and toads make a lot of noise at certain times and can be recognized
by their sounds, allowing surveys to document where active choruses are.
from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland recently addressed
the issue of sound surveys for frogs. Linda is coordinator of the North
American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP), supported by the U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS). NAAMP is a collaborative effort between USGS state agencies
and nonprofit organizations. One goal is to monitor the status of frog
and toad populations through standardized calling surveys. The idea is
to get enough people to listen for choruses at enough wetlands across
the country to determine whether species are declining in number, increasing,
or remaining stable.
can properly identify frog and toad calls can contribute to an important
conservation effort. When carried out with the rigor of a scientific study,
annual call surveys could reveal that certain species are more or less
common in certain areas than was true previously. Similar approaches have
been used with another USGS program known as the Breeding Bird Survey
has more than 80 different kinds of frogs and toads, and most make sounds
characteristic of the particular species. Such a biological trait is useful
for identification as long as the listener knows which frog call goes
with which frog species. So, as with any program that collects scientific
data, observers must be trained. NAAMP has established protocols that
volunteers must follow, including a Frog Call Quiz on the NAAMP Web site
if the program is run with strict guidelines about how data are collected
and verified, useful information can be acquired about the status of calling
frogs. Although some localities in the southern states have more than
two dozen species, anyone can tune in and learn all the frog calls with
a little effort.
aspect is that NAAMP offers an opportunity for people to contribute to
a conservation program and learn about regional amphibians, and thus to
develop a fresh interest in their local environment. A public involved
in environmental issues of any sort is more likely to be aware when their
regional habitats are sullied by environmental degradations. On the NAAMP
Web site, individuals in different states enter their own data, which
anyone can check. As the program develops, the plan is for NAAMP to cover
much of the eastern United States.
If you do
not want to be part of the survey effort by being assigned a route, you
can still learn something about frogs. Visit NAAMPs Web site and
click on the Frog Call Quiz; then select the Public Quiz. Pick your state
and see if you can identify the calling frogs and toads. After each question
youll be shown your answers and the correct answers; you can then
retake that quiz or move on to the next one. Listening to the distinctive,
often melodious, sounds of frogs and toads should increase your appreciation
of our native biodiversity.
the next warm rain, go to a wetland at night and listen to the sounds
around you. If the frogs are talking, they are saying that your local
wetland is still intact, and presumably that chytrid fungus has not become
a problem for the species you hear. An exciting feature of being in a
region with a rich biodiversity of frogs is not only what you might see
but also what you might hear. Making sure our frogs stay local and vocal
is a worthwhile effort.
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