You’ve might of heard of amphibians in general, especially frogs, are good bio-indicators of environmental changes in their environment. You also might have heard that their populations and abundances are good indicators that we are in the midst of a 6th mass extinction. Amphibian species are disappearing at a much quicker rate in comparison to their natural background extinction rate. The normal background extinction rate of amphibians is roughly one extinction for every 1,000 years; however, there has been a huge amount of 168 extinctions over the last 20,000 years alone (globally). The primary reasons for these extinctions are pathogens, introduced species, loss of habitat, and pollution. Invasive species have become a large contributor to many species extinctions globally. It’s important that alien species be monitored and their effects on ecosystems and species be evaluated, and managed.
Why are they good indicators, and similarly, why are they so vulnerable? Frogs have permeable skin that’s exposed and easily absorbs toxic substances. Their growth, development and survival (of eggs, juveniles and adults) highly reflect the conditions of their environment (particularly the quality of the water, surrounding vegetation i.e spawning habitat), as they are intimately tied to their aquatic ecosystem.
Amphibians such as frogs are key components in their ecosystem, and have various roles. For one, they play a key role in nutrient cycling and energy flow, this is necessary for all trophic levels including primary producers. Tadpoles in particular eat large quantities of algae, which can also help reduce the effects of eutrophication, which can pose a risk to aquatic species and vegetation. Algae can become a dominating species in aquatic environments, and not allow the growth of other aquatic vegetation, therefore the presence of tadpoles can become an important regulator process. Overall, frogs can certainly affect the dynamics of their aquatic ecosystem.
Amphibians have been around for roughly 350 million years.. and it’s important that we recognize their increased extinction rates and keep them around.
Sidenote: Implement a toad/frog abode in your backyard to help give them a little home! I participated in the making of a few with a group of volunteers in a restoration project with Evergreen over the summer. Use a little flower pot and place it slightly under the soil to create a little home!