Friday, April 30, 2010

Hug a frog today

April 30 is the second annual “Save the Frogs Day,” although in these times, every day should have that goal. Better than hugging a frog – assuming you could find one –would be thinking of frogs, along with toads and salamanders, all of them amphibians.

Like so many other creatures, frogs are suffering the effects of lost habitats, pollution, pesticides and herbicides, climate change and invasive species.

According to Michele S. Byers, “Today, nearly one-third of almost 6,500 amphibian species in the world are threatened. In the past 30 years, hundreds of species have disappeared altogether. In New Jersey alone, six of 32 amphibian species are listed as threatened or endangered.”

Byers, whose columns appear in area newspapers, is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Not only deserving of being cared for and saved for their own sakes, amphibians are also “leading indicators of the health of our environment,” Byers writes. Their widespread decline may be a signal that our ecosystem is also jeopardized.

Some New Jerseyans are helping amphibians as “critter crossing guards,” protecting frogs and salamanders crossing the state’s roads, while others work to reduce fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and fungicide use on lawns and keep natural buffers near streams and wetlands.

Amphibians, the “thin green line,” have survived for eons, and they’re the first of our ancestors to leave water for land. Now, on top of everything else that’s plaguing them, a mysterious fungus, “Chytrid,” is attacking the skins of frogs, depriving them of oxygen. Its origin is unknown and for now, scientists can only watch. Since frogs are in the middle of the food chain, effects of the fungus will move in both directions.

Two websites worth checking: and

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