Monday, July 6, 2009

Operation Frog Pond and Frogwatch

Amphibians are currently in crisis in NJ, across the United States and beyond our borders. Habitat loss is obviously a problem, but so is climate change and disease.

About 46% of the 277 species of amphibians in the United States are at risk, according to Tree Walkers International, an organization that encourages private individuals to get involved in amphibian conservation.

Operation Frog Pond from treewalkers.org has information if you are building a pond or if you have one, so that you can make it more amphibian-friendly.

Small ponds - about half the size of a bathtub - usually cost less than $100 and can provide habitat.



What makes your pond amphibian friendly?
  • Gently sloping sides
  • Fairly shallow water - most amphibians breed in shallow water - give them different depths
  • Plants growing in the water at the edges of the pond are needed for laying eggs - vegetative variety surrounding the pond provides hiding places.
  • No fish. Those large ornamental fish, such as koi and goldfish, feed on eggs, tadpoles and larvae.
  • Keep pets away from the pond - don't add to predator problems.
Never introduce amphibians to a frog pond without the permission of state and local authorities. The goal of Operation Frog Pond is to enhance habitat for wild, native amphibians. Relocating amphibians to new locations can severely alter the local genetics of wild populations and spread disease. Introducing exotic species such as bullfrogs and African clawed frogs cause serious loss of native amphibians. Non-native species and animals purchased at pet shops or bait stores should never be released into the wild.

Don't have a backyard pond? Your yard can provide habitat for adult amphibians, many of which are less dependent on bodies of water outside breeding season.

Perhaps the most important step is to minimize your use of pesticides and other chemicals, which not only affect amphibians directly -- they absorb toxins through their delicate skin -- but kill off the insects that they need for food. In fact, helping amphibians might just mean less yard work. Minimize that chemical-laden lawn and instead plant native vegetation, and don't work so hard at cleanup because a pile of fallen woody debris is just the sort of place where you'd find amphibians in the wild.

Another way to help is to volunteer with Frogwatch USA. Participants go out after sunset to listen for frog calls, reporting data on weather and species of frogs heard. It's not that hard for the average person to learn to tell frog calls apart because you'll only be dealing with a handful of species at any given time.

Frogwatch volunteers don't have to live near pristine wilderness, or even a permanent body of water. Many amphibians reproduce in temporary ponds called vernal pools that dry up after the breeding season. The data collected can help scientists track changes in frog populations, which is crucial at a time when so many species are disappearing.

These sites also provide information for identifying amphibians and their calls.

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