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2008: The Year of the Frog

I often look at the “photo highlights” on Yahoo! News. Even though more and more of humanity lives in sterile, nature-restricted cities, people are still drawn to the natural world and all types of biological life, and this is obvious in how often the pictures are of animals. I found this picture from the Associated Press incredibly interesting because not only is it of a frog, which I think are fantastic (and I’m troubled to know how terribly endangered they are), but it’s a unique type of frog that doesn’t go through a tadpole phase, instead hatching fully formed and tiny. I suspect the caption is supposed to read “half the world’s frogs” at the end, not “half the world,” because, honestly, the whole world is suffering from pollution, loss of habitat and other environmental problems, including the most remote areas, such as the Arctic and Antarctic.

2008 is the Year of the Frog. Frogs are becoming increasingly scarce, and although it’s not known exactly what the cause is, disease, chemicals and climate change are some of the factors that have been put forth. Frogs, like birds, are more sensitive to environmental changes because their habitat is wider ranging than for other organisms. This also might make it more difficult to pinpoint the cause when their numbers dwindle or their health is threatened. For frogs they live on land and in water, and birds may also spend a fair amount of time in water bodies, but they also migrate over long distances. Trouble at birds’ wintering or summering spots or anywhere in between can have serious consequences.

In general, I haven’t seen any specific pointers for individuals on helping save amphibians, besides donating to keep research going to figure out what exactly is going on. My personal feeling is that people can help all wildlife by lobbying for fewer chemicals in products and in agriculture, especially estrogen and estrogen-mimicking chemicals, which are likely responsible for gender skewing, among other things. It’s also important to avoid habitat destruction by keeping wild spaces wild and demanding denser cities. Climate change is the big wild card, but the outcome is bent in favor of negative impacts on humanity and all other life, which is adapted to living in the climate we have. I recently watched the Discovery Channel documentary Expedition Alaska, and there were some dramatic implications for species that were being squeezed by increasing temperatures. An example is when species that already live at higher altitudes and are used to colder temperatures are pushed further and further up into the hills or mountains where it remains the cooler temperature they’re used to. This may keep the species or population local to that area going for a time, but at some point they may not have enough food at that height or it also may cease to be cool enough. I’ve heard of species of frogs that may have been or be wiped out in just this way. So, of course, if you’re concerned about climate change, this is just another reason to push for change.

It pains me to imagine a world without amphibians (or birds, or the fish we’re used to eating). It’s a specific example of one thing that may not be there for future generations.

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