Written by Miyo Fukuzawa, ESLLC 2016-2017
Everyone’s heard about the vulnerability that tigers, polar bears, and other cuddly animals are facing. Most people, however, have not heard about the extreme population decline experienced by amphibians in the past few decades. 43% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction, compared with only 23% of mammals and 12% of birds. In fact, 168 amphibian species have gone extinct in the last 5 centuries. This shocking issue is known as the “global amphibian crisis”.
There are many factors that play into this unfortunate fate for amphibians. Frogs are extremely receptive to their environment since they have permeable skin. If there are pesticides or any chemicals in their habitat, they will breathe it in through their skin which causes them to become ill and often die. They are also faced with habitat destruction and human density in areas that they live. An increasing amount of amphibians have been infected with a deadly fungus whose prevalence has been linked to the global climate changes that we are seeing.
Amphibians are just one of the groups of animals that are experiencing the negative consequences caused by human activity and treatment of our planet. Extinction is a tragedy in any case, but it is especially concerning with amphibians. They are extremely important to the health of our ecosystem and are vital to biodiversity. Streams with tadpoles foster a more diverse and healthy stream by controlling algae and thus providing a suitable environment for many other species. Frogs and tadpoles are also important in the food chain, and help keep the potentially deadly mosquito population in check. Science-wise, frogs are essential in many scientific studies and medicines. Among other things, they can help us study the health of our planet. Since the health of frogs is so closely linked to the conditions of their surroundings, these animals are studied to investigate the health of biospheres that they live in. Amphibians are some of the most valuable creatures we have, and they are disappearing almost without notice. It is important that we spread awareness about this crisis not only for the sake of the frogs, but for the sake of us and our planet.