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Amphibian Decline

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Posted by Colchicine on December 18, 2002 at 13:56:54:

Even at the risk of starting another amphibian debate on the hognose forum, I decided to post this because of the article's reference to Easterns. In the past, one poster (unnamed) asked for evidence of amphibian decline and I think this sums it up. The ultimate purpose of this post to hopefully show that amphibians should not be used as feeders for captive snakes (for many reasons, of which I have elaborated numerous of times on here so do a search). I hope people are able to read this and figure out how it applies to hognoses and do so objectively.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Elachee event puts spotlight on amphibians
Frogs, toads salamanders face danger
The Times

In Georgia and around the world, populations of frogs and salamanders have declined dramatically in recent years. Starting today, Elachee Nature Science Center will call attention to the plight of these underappreciated animals.
"Vanishing Amphibians," a traveling exhibition created by the Smithsonian Institution, will be on display at the center through Jan. 26. Three panel displays explore amphibian biology, species population trends and scientists' efforts to understand why the animals are disappearing.

"It's a very timely and relevant exhibit because the Southern Appalachians have one of the highest concentrations of amphibians in the world," said Peter Gordon, education director at Elac-hee. "We'll augment the displays with some hands-on games and activities for kids, as well as actual specimens in aquariums."

Gordon said when he takes school groups to the aquatic study center at Elachee's Chicopee Lake, kids often catch salamanders or frogs.

"We use that as an opportunity to discuss how these creatures are vanishing, and how that may be related to things humans are doing," he said. "And the factors that are affecting animals are probably affecting us as well."

Greg Greer of Marietta, a former director of the Chattahoochee Nature Center who now conducts ecological tours, said the disappearance of amphibians is ominous.

"These are keynote species, indicators of a healthy environment," he said. "I've been doing field studies for many years, and I see far fewer amphibians and reptiles now than I did 10 or 15 years ago. There's definitely something going on."

Greer suspects exposure to pollution may be to blame.

"I believe the indiscriminate spraying of toxins on lawns across metro Atlanta plays a big part," he said. "Most amphibians breathe partially or entirely through their skin. Some salamanders don't even have lungs. This puts them in direct contact with toxins."

Whit Gibbons, a professor of ecology with the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, agrees that pollution is a factor. But the primary issue is loss of habitat.

"Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to all of our wildlife, but especially to amphibians," he said. "They require a wetland, at least a temporary one, to lay their eggs in."

Gibbons is worried that a 2001 Supreme Court decision narrowing the definition of a wetland could lead to more habitat being sacrificed for development.

"It could have a profound impact on some of Georgia's most beautiful species, such as the tiger, spotted and marbled salamanders," he said.

John Jensen, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said the state has about 50 species of salamanders and about 30 species of frogs and toads.

"The Blue Ridge Mountains are the hot spot for salamanders, but we've also got species that live only in caves or only on the coastal plain," he said. "Most of our diversity of frogs and toads is in the southern half of the state."

In Georgia, Jensen said, the disappearance of amphibians is directly tied to habitat loss. "It's obvious and indisputable," he said. "But there's something else at work, too, because in some places in the world, populations are declining even where the habitat seems to be in good shape."

Gibbons said it will take a public awareness campaign to save the salamanders.

"Amphibians are what I call 'hidden biodiversity,'" he said. "They're all around us, but they're very shy and secretive. Most people have never even seen a salamander. So we can destroy their habitat without even knowing that they're there."

If amphibians are eliminated from an ecosystem, it removes a crucial link in the food chain. Amphibians serve as predators, keeping insect populations under control. But they are also prey, providing an important source of food for countless birds, mammals, fish and reptiles.

"There are species in Georgia that eat only amphibians," said Greer. "The sole diet of the Eastern hog-nosed snake is toads."

The only way to reverse the decline of amphibians, he said, is to get serious about preserving their habitat.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "Nature is very resilient if given the chance. But in the current political climate, efforts are being made to undermine all the protections that had been put into place in the past."


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