Entries tagged with “frogs”.


USGS Study Confirms U.S. Amphibian Populations Declining at Precipitous Rates

Posted: 22 May 2013 01:59 PM PDT

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The first-ever estimate of how fast frogs, toads and salamanders in the United States are disappearing from their habitats reveals they are vanishing at an alarming and rapid rate.

According to the study released today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, even the species of amphibians presumed to be relatively stable and widespread are declining. And these declines are occurring in amphibian populations everywhere, from the swamps in Louisiana and Florida to the high mountains of the Sierras and the Rockies.

The study by USGS scientists and collaborators concluded that U.S. amphibian declines may be more widespread and severe than previously realized, and that significant declines are notably occurring even in protected national parks and wildlife refuges.

“Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet’s ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct,” said USGS Director Suzette Kimball. “This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope.”

On average, populations of all amphibians examined vanished from habitats at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about 20 years. The more threatened species, considered “Red-Listed” in an assessment by the global organization International Union for Conservation of Nature, disappeared from their studied habitats at a rate of 11.6 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these Red-Listed species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about six years.

“Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”

For nine years, researchers looked at the rate of change in the number of ponds, lakes and other habitat features that amphibians occupied. In lay terms, this means that scientists documented how fast clusters of amphibians are disappearing across the landscape.

In all, scientists analyzed nine years of data from 34 sites spanning 48 species. The analysis did not evaluate causes of declines.

The research was done under the auspices of the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which studies amphibian trends and causes of decline. This unique program, known as ARMI, conducts research to address local information needs in a way that can be compared across studies to provide analyses of regional and national trends.

Brian Gratwicke, amphibian conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said, “This is the culmination of an incredible sampling effort and cutting-edge analysis pioneered by the USGS, but it is very bad news for amphibians. Now, more than ever, we need to confront amphibian declines in the U.S. and take actions to conserve our incredible frog and salamander biodiversity.”

The study offered other surprising insights. For example, declines occurred even in lands managed for conservation of natural resources, such as national parks and national wildlife refuges.

“The declines of amphibians in these protected areas are particularly worrisome because they suggest that some stressors – such as diseases, contaminants and drought – transcend landscapes,” Adams said. “The fact that amphibian declines are occurring in our most protected areas adds weight to the hypothesis that this is a global phenomenon with implications for managers of all kinds of landscapes, even protected ones.”

Amphibians seem to be experiencing the worst declines documented among vertebrates, but all major groups of animals associated with freshwater are having problems, according to Adams. While habitat loss is a factor in some areas, other research suggests that things like disease, invasive species, contaminants and perhaps other unknown factors are related to declines in protected areas.

“This study,” said Adams, “gives us a point of reference that will enable us to track what’s happening in a way that wasn’t possible before.”

Read FAQs about this research

The publication, Trends in amphibian occupancy in the United States, is authored by  Adams, M.J., Miller, D.A., Muths, E., Corn, P.S., Campbell Grant, E.H., Bailey, L., Fellers, G.M., Fisher, R.N., Sadinski, W.J., Waddle, H., and Walls, S.C., and is available to the public.

Read a USGS blog, Front-row seats to climate change, about 3 other recent USGS amphibian studies. For more information about USGS amphibian research, visit http://armi.usgs.gov/

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Just hopped in to wish you a happy Save the Frogs Day and say thanks for all that you do!

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Frogs are neat animals – they fill our evenings with great choruses, they eat lots of insects, and the are really fun to watch. 

But as you know, they are really having a tough time making it right now and they need our attention.

Save the Frogs Day is coming up on April 27th and this is a great day to focus in on our amphibian friends.

Here are a few ideas on things you can do to get to know our local amphibians a bit better and help them out:

- Visit one of our local parks and look for frogs.  Claude Moore Park has not only the big ponds but also a wonderful garden pond behind the visitor center where Green Frogs and tadpoles can be seen. Or, head over to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – there’s a great pond right at the start of the trail that has Green Frogs, Bullfrogs, Pickerel frogs and more. Other Great Places across Loudoun are also terrific for frog watching – let us know what you find!

- Sign up for our Frog Call Survey or adopt a site to survey.  You can pick a location or route close to home so it’s easy to do.

- Have a Happy Hour for the Frogs and toast to the frogs with whatever grog you have onhand

- Grab your shovels, mark off a spot of lawn (you weren’t having fun mowing it anyway) and make a little frog pond.  They’re easy to build and can be a really fun family project.  After digging and filling, resist the urge to stock it with fish or frog tadpoles from the nursery…just watch and wait.  The frogs and toads already in your yard will find it!

 

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Discovering Willowsford – March 24, The Grant

Field trip report by Donna Quinn

20130324 discovery walk (31) correctedIt was cold! And the forecast called for snow! But despite the chill and threat of precipitation, 12 hardy adventurers gathered for the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Discovering Willowsford walk in search of signs of early spring.

We headed to an area in the Grant where we might find vernal pools. Vernal pools are shallow depressions filled with water in spring. Because vernal pools go dry in summer and do not support fish, amphibians use vernal pools to breed. This provides protection from fish that would eat their eggs. The storm drain ponds in the Grant are an example of animals using habitat that is available. Even though the storm drain ponds are not vernal pools, they are probably located where vernal pools once were, or are in the path of the amphibians to their past vernal pools.

We found Wood Frog egg masses in the pond and learned even though we don’t often see Wood Frogs, we can find their egg masses in the spring. The eggs we saw were getting close to hatching. We could see little tadpoles developing in them!

Amphibians have a fascinating life cycle. You can read more in the Habitat Herald article, The Big Night: http://www.loudounwildlife.org/PDF_Files/Vol_17_Issue_4.pdf

After everyone had a good look at the Wood Frog eggs, we headed further down the trail to see what else we could discover. It wasn’t long before we heard an interesting bird call. When we looked up we were thrilled to spot a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers, a bird found in open woodlands and wetlands. It’s hard to miss a Red-headed Woodpecker – the color of their head is something you just have to see for yourself to believe how red red can be. Red-headed Woodpecker populations have declined in recent years due to loss of habitat. It is very exciting the Grant is home to Red-headed Woodpeckers! (Photo of Red-headed Woodpecker from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id )

We also spotted signs of spring on the forest floor. This is Hepatica, a beautiful harbinger of spring. It gets its name from the three lobes of the leaf, which resemble liver; it is also called liverwort. Hepatica’s beautiful flowers can be blue, pink or white. We must go back soon to see it in flower!

This is Crane-fly Orchid, the leaf disappears late spring and it has no leaves when it blooms in summer. Yes, it is truly an orchid.

We crossed creeks, hiked over logs and had a grand time exploring the woods along the trail in the Grant. We even forgot how cold and raw it was – discovering interesting things along the trail can do that! Come join us on our next walk on April 21, rain or shine. We’ll have fun either way.

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Attention Homeschoolers, teachers, parents, and curious naturalists! Frog activity will start to stir come the first week or two of March –  Here is a great  resource to add to use as we head into this season: Hop Into Action.

The author, David Alexander, joined us one spring for our amphibian monitoring program kickoff and spring pools explorations.  He was great to have along and really knows his stuff. His book is available through Amazon.

Hop Into Action, Book Review by Jessica Kratz
Looking to have your students leap from the sidelines to participating in citizen science? To spring forward from awareness to action? David Alexander’s fun and easy-to-follow curriculum guide Hop Into Action [NSTA Press, 2010] is a fantastic way for educators, youth leaders, and naturalists to become informed and involved with frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians.

Alexander leaves virtually no stone [or log] unturned, approaching the subject from nearly all angles, and all disciplines. He provides information on the ethical, practical, and logistical considerations for the field and the classroom, from handling techniques to finding or creating an appropriate amphibian habitat. There is an extensive resource list of related age-appropriate books and materials, a thorough glossary and index which is immensely helpful for building science vocabulary, and an elaborate matrix correlating the 20 activities to the North American Association for Environmental Education [NAAEE] Guidelines for grades K-4. Alexander also offers ways to adapt the lessons for our youngest naturalists.

Alexander’s 20 activities are clearly written, require few additional materials [which are easy and inexpensive to obtain] and easy to follow. A friendly frog appears on the introductory page of each activity. This familiar character instantly welcomes you to each lesson, dressed and posed to provide a quick and amusing introduction. From artist to businessman, from diner to singer, our multi-faceted guide is a welcoming host and reflects how enjoyable and interdisciplinary the guide is. The clear illustrations and clever comparisons [i.e., comparing the size of a frog to a tennis ball] make both teacher and student more comfortable with measurement and help both ease into scientific procedures. Alexander also offers fresh approaches to familiar activities [i.e., "Lily Pad Venn Diagrams"] and fun, modern ways of expressing and exploring ideas, such as “Herp, Herp Hooray” [amphibian conservation plans] and “Frog Pond Lifeguard” [aquatic invertebrate survey and ecological health assessment.

With nearly 1/3 of amphibian species known to be threatened or extinct, and at least 42% of amphibian species declining in population for reasons such as habitat loss, climate change, and fungal disease, according to the 2008 Global Amphibian Assessment [...], it is important to guide children to understand and appreciate amphibians before it is too late. It also provides an opportunity for students to connect to a global extinction issue closer to home, using species they can observe nearby.

Hop Into Action is a fantastic vehicle for getting elementary school teachers more comfortable with and involved in science. It is also a convenient reference and source of activities for camps, youth groups, nature centers, and other non-formal settings. Its lessons can be used individually, as a building block for a unit, or a foundation for a year-long investigation. Hop Into Action also makes a fantastic gift for the educators in your life, and is truly a gift to amphibians everywhere.

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A Good News Story
by Nicole Hamilton

It was March 2007 and we had just started our Loudoun Amphibian Monitoring Program. With the excitement of the program launch, people started telling us about special spots where amphibians may live and breed. One of the leads I got was from Liam McGranaghan for an area in Lucketts known for its undulating forest habitat and sink holes.

After asking for permission to visit Gum Farm, Mike Hayslett of the Virginia Vernal Pools Program, John DeMary and I ventured out. It was 10:00pm, 45 degrees, and there was a cold steady rain coming down. This was my first official night foray for amphibian monitoring, and I will never forget it.

The three of us met at the Lucketts Community Center – it felt like we were on a mission – and indeed we were. With headlamps donned and winter coats zipped, we carpooled to the site and headed into the woods. As we approached the vernal pools, what we encountered was simply magical.

1,000+ eyes reflected back at us through the darkness of the pool. The calls of Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers filled the night. Salamanders swam through the water. The woods and the ephemeral wetlands kept secret in their midst, were alive, and a rhythm of life that has gone on for thousands of years in this forest was playing out before us.

In days that followed, we determined that these woods and pools were home to Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers, Jefferson Salamanders, Spotted Salamanders, Marbled Salamanders and Fairy Shrimp. It was magnificent both in species diversity and the sheer number of individuals thriving here. We also discovered that this property was in the midst of being developed. The pink tape that ringed the trees around the pools told the story.

Mike Hayslett and I stood at the edge of one of the pools. Knowing that these amphibians spend 360 days of the year living in the forest habitat, I asked him, “How much of the forest needs to be saved to save these amphibians?” He gazed at the habitat and said, “All of it.” My heart sunk. I had seen other special places developed and knew the likelihood of this property being preserved was slim.

Nonetheless, we looked at options, offered ideas, and even looked at ways to purchase at least the forested wetlands. We worked with David McCarthy, Mike Kane of Piedmont Environmental Council and others and helped keep the dialogue going.

I share this story because today, 5 ½ years later, something amazing happened. Susan Lee and her son Jeremy Lee who own Gum Farm, engaged the Land Trust of Virginia to discuss conservation. Working with John Magistro of the Land Trust, the family not only put the 42 acres of wooded wetlands (identified as a Globally Rare Wetland Habitat) under conservation easement but their entire 239 acres! These additional acres are rich with bird life that includes Savannah Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Barn Swallows, Scarlet Tanagers, vireos, Wood Thrush, Wild Turkeys, Red-tailed Hawks, flycatchers, orioles, and more. The milkweeds in the field support Monarch butterflies and the grasses are rich with insects.

The property is also rich with cultural significance. Being situated on James Monroe Highway (Route 15), it is part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area and protects one of Loudoun County’s oldest known cemeteries, the Oxley family cemetery, which has been cared for by the family since Isaac Dyer and Gertrude Yeager Gum purchased the property more than 100 years ago.  Indeed, this is one of Loudoun’s Great Places.

The Land Trust of Virginia, with input from Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Piedmont Environmental Council and widespread support from the community, filed the conservation easement just before Thanksgiving. This easement marks a historic move by the Lee Family that needs to be applauded and celebrated by all of Loudoun. It is a gift to the future generations of Loudoun that we are thankful for and is a model for conservation and historic preservation that I hope other families and developers will follow.

Please read the Press Release from the Land Trust of Virginia here: http://www.loudounwildlife.org/PDF_Files/Gum_Farm_Easement_PR.pdf and if you know of great places in Loudoun that should be protected, refer landowners to this example as a model to follow. And, join us in our monitoring programs (http://www.loudounwildlife.org/Environmental_Monitoring.htm) as we identify more special habitats. The beauty and richness of nature surrounds us, and through efforts like this, it will into the future.

Thank you, John Magistro, for leading the negotiations and process for establishing the easement.

Thank you, Jeremy and Susan Lee, for this great gift.

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Oh what would Dr. Seuss say! Well, he may have said something like,

“I like Green Frogs in our pond,
They sing like banjos all day long.

I watch them as they hop and play,
I see them do this every day!”

Ok, I’ll leave the rhyming to Dr.Seuss – but I did want to share some neat shots of the eggs that they laid in our little front yard pond.

Earlier this year, a snapping turtle showed up in the pond and the Green Frogs were clearly concerned. (I thought it was neat but I can see their point). After the turtle departed however, their activities returned to normal, and one day, as I peered into the pond, I saw a very large mass of eggs.

By a quick estimate, the mass must have had at least 800 eggs! These eggs did not go unnoticed though by the Wood Frog tadpoles and other creatures in the pond and many were gobbled up. (See, there are those that do like green eggs! even though these weren’t really green, they’re more brown)

The eggs that went uneaten hatched within a few days and the tadpoles are now in the leaf litter eating various things in the pond. They will take about 2 years to develop into frogs and only few will make it to adulthood, but it was fun to document their beginnings.

Having a backyard pond is a great way to watch wildlife and learn about nature — all sorts of animals walk, hop and fly in!

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Linda Millington, our volunteer coordinator, sent me a funny email about Gray Tree frogs that use her patio umbrella as a place to hide out during the day.

Here’s what Linda shared:

Every year we have at least two tree frogs that love our umbrellas around the pool.

We have large cement bases for the umbrellas that are shaped like frogs so we joke that they are there because of the tree frog gods.

This summer we have three – they all hang out all day in the folds of the umbrella or on the poles and then depart at night.

Here are photos of one – one bathed in green light. They are so cute!

If you live in a wooded area and have some water nearby, you probably have Gray Tree Frogs too.

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I’m talking about our wood frog tadpoles.  Remember back to March 5-10 when the eggs were laid? And then I posted those under water photos of the eggs and newly hatched tadpoles?

Well here they are a few weeks later.  They won’t really sit still for photos now that they’re bigger, (I guess the camera lens under water looks like something that may eat them) but I got a few shots that I thought you’d have fun looking at. They’re posted to our facebook gallery.

You can see that they’re just starting to show that wood frog moustache.

You can also see in the photos an aquatic crustacean called Daphnia.  They’re an interesting animal that is very important in vernal pools in that they serve as food for amphibian larvae while eating up detritus materials, algae and bacteria. Their antennae are actually used for locomotion.

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Here we are, right smack in the middle of the froggy season and it’s time to celebrate National Frog Month!

I don’t think there was such a thing when I was growing up but I’m glad there is one now – if for no other reason than to pull attention to our amphibian friends who are out there peeping and ribbiting away, and making their journeys from terrestrial homes to the ponds and streams where they breed, and playing important roles in our ecosystem.

Here in Loudoun, we have eight species of frogs: Wood frogs, Spring Peepers, Pickerel frogs, Cricket frogs, Upland Chorus frogs, Green frogs, Bullfrogs, and Gray Treefrogs.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll do some special species highlights on our local frogs so we can get to know them better and learn to recognize their calls, their habitats and their behaviors.

Happy Frog Month!

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