NYS Creates Recovery Plan for Northern Cricket Frog

Northern_cricket_frog_at_Neal_Smith_National_Wildlife_RefugeThe northern cricket frog is one of New York State’s two endangered amphibians. New York State law does not require recovery plans for endangered species, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed one for this species, a recent department press release says.

The plan includes conserving appropriate, but unoccupied habitat. The plan also included reintroducing frogs to unoccupied habitat, but only “if suitable habitat still remains, northern cricket frog habitat requirements are understood, and a funded and scientifically sound protocol is in place to monitor northern cricket frog abundance and assess potential causes of decline at any re-introduction site.”

In other words, more research is needed. There is a very brief paragraph about data gaps, and an even briefer one about recovery partnerships. A long list of potential tasks, includes sections on research and recovery tasks.

The comment period on the plan closes a week from today, Feb. 21, 2014.

Download the recovery plan here.
Read the NYS DEC press release about the plan here.
Read a Reptile Magazine article about the plan here.

Photo: Northern cricket frog at  Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Photo by Sara Hollerich, used courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pond Study Points to Chytrid Reservoir

pond research chytridAbout a third of the ponds in a Missouri study harbored chytrid fungus. A Washington University in St. Louis scientist decided to take advantage of the fact that the fungus does not seem to cause amphibian deaths in the region, and tried to tease out the factors that lead to the fungus flourishing in one pond and not another.

The 29 ponds studied were all roughly the same size and depth. They were clustered in the east-central section of Missouri (no surprise, around St. Louis).

No single factor determined which ponds had the fungus and which did not. But some fancy statistical analysis showed that the affected ponds shared amphibian community structure, macroinvertebrate community structure, and pond physicochemistry.

Since the research was done, crayfish and nematodes have been found to be infected with the chytrid fungus, making them possible reservoirs for the disease. This study suggested that variations in invertebrate communities was a factor in which ponds harbored the fungus.

In the paper, which was published in PLoS ONE, the researchers recommend that more research be done on the non-amphibian life in infected ponds to figure out how they are contributing to sustaining the fungus.

Read the Washington University in St. Louis article here.
Read the PLoS ONE paper here.

Photo: A pond survey crew samples the creatures that live in a Missouri pond in order to better understand the differences between ecosystems that favor chytrid and those that do not. Alex Strauss, the first author on this paper, is wearing a blue shirt.  Photo credit: Elizabeth Biro/Washington University – Tyson Research Center

Chytrid Fungus Found in Kansas

Witchita chytrid frogA press release from Wichita State University says that students there have detected chytrid fungus in the frogs they tested. A previous test of five Kansas frogs did not detect chytrid fungus.

Read the Wichita State press release, here.

Pro-MED has lots of helpful technical details about chytrid fungus in its commentary about the press release, including its complex life cycle and its role in the worldwide decline of amphibians.

Read the Pro-MED comment, here.

In reading that chytrid fungus was newly found in Kansas, I found myself wishing for a map of its presence, as is available for white nose syndrome in bats and chronic wasting disease in deer. You can find that map right here.

Photo: One of the frogs tested. By: Lainie Rusco, used courtesy of Wichita State University

The Nation’s Strangest Wildlife Laws

In Georgia, you may not keep a garter snake as a pet, but you can own a rattlesnake, says Whit Gibbons, an ecologist and environmental educator with the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, in a column in the Aiken (Georgia) Standard.

The poisonous snake exception to Georgia’s law prohibiting the ownership of native snakes and reptiles is probably the weirdest law in Gibbons’ round-up, which includes the fact that frogs are regulated as fish in Alaska and that you may hunt frogs with a dog in Kansas. (Frogs, you know, are both funny and hard to legislate, so lots of frog laws make the list.)

I appreciate Gibbons’ list for its intelligence and wit, but I suspect that the regs he lists are not the nation’s weirdest wildlife laws. Does your state have a weird wildlife law? Do you know of one in another state? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Read the column here.

Troublesome Creatures

spotted owlEfforts around the country to remove troublesome creatures — whether invasive or otherwise — have been met with a variety of reactions. In all cases the creatures are being removed because they are harming an ecosystem.

No one seems to mind that California Fish and Wildlife Department is removing South African clawed frogs from Golden Gate Park. The frogs are not native to the area, they completely destroy the habitats they invade, and they carry a fungus that is deadly to native amphibians. Read about the recovery effort in Bay Nature.

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources would like there to be fewer invasive mute swans. Mute swans are aggressive and don’t allow the native trumpeter swans or loons to nest. (They also have it in for ducks and geese.) Plus, they eat so many wetland plants that they can destroy wetlands. Oiling eggs has been too costly and too slow, so the department will begin to kill mute swans. Michigan Live has published several articles on the subject.
Here’s Michigan Live on why.
Here’s the plan in one county.
And here the reaction to the plan in that county.

And then there are barred owls. They’ve long been identified as a threat to northern spotted owl recovery in the Pacific Northwest. Spotted owls rely on old-growth forests. Barred owls are not so picky, and have moved into the spotted owls’ turf as the habitat has become more variable, because the old-growth forests were cut. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to start killing barred owls to try to improve matters for the spotted owl. The Oregonian did two stories on the situation. This one several years ago. And this one now that the program has begun.
There’s been no shortage of news coverage. See a lot of it here.

Photo: Spotted owl, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Frogs and Pesticides

pacific tree frogTwo fungicides are showing up in the tissues of Pacific treefrogs, even those that live in pristine national parks, a recent paper in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry shows. The pesticides aren’t just coming from agricultural operations, but also from illegal marijuana farming.
Read the LiveScience article here.
Find the abstract for the paper here.

A study published in the journal Evolutionary Adaptations found that frogs collected from ponds where their ancestors were likely exposed to the pesticide chlorpyrifos showed greater tolerance to that pesticide themselves, perhaps showing an evolutionary adaptation to surviving exposure to that pesticide.
Read the KQED story here.
See the abstract for the paper here.

Photo: Pacific treefrog, courtesy Washington Dept. of Natural Resources

Bullfrogs Die From Fungus Too

bullfrog OSUA recent study by researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Pittsburgh shows that bullfrogs are not just carriers of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also called Bd or a chytrid fungus, but can die from it as well. The paper was published in the journal EcoHealth.

These researchers found that bullfrogs are not even a particularly good host for the fungus — although they say that this may depend on site-specific conditions.

The take-away? Scientists should keep searching for chytrid carriers, and wildlife managers in places where bullfrogs are native, should keep an eye on their populations. It wouldn’t be the first time a species was in trouble at home while being an invasive species elsewhere.

Read the Oregon State University press release here. (All other media coverage was just a reprint of the release.)

Photo: by Megan Cook, courtesy of Oregon State University

It’s Not The Heat, It’s the Water Regime

black-bellied_salamander_cressler_high_resToday is the second day in a US Geological Survey amphibian two-fer. If you like your wildlife moist and federally researched, you’ve come to the right place.

Scientists have long suspected that climate change is an important factor in amphibian declines, a US Geological Survey press release notes, and resource managers are asking whether conservation measures might help species persist or adapt in a changing climate. Three recent U.S. Geological Survey studies offer some insight into the issue.

The studies were conducted by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, or ARMI.

One study found that it’s not the heat, it’s the precipitation that will drive amphibian’s response to climate change. That is, the alternating droughts and deluges that are predicted to worsen as climate change increases, will hurt amphibian populations as they struggle to adapt to ever-changing water levels. Read that paper in the journal Biology.

Another study confirmed that drought hurts populations of mole salamanders, at least over the short term. The study was important because the mole salamanders are similar to the federally threatened flatwoods salamander, and the finding implies that climate change will be yet another stressor to the threatened species. Read the paper in the journal Wetlands.

The third study showed U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program is effective in increasing the species richness of frogs and toads on farms in the program. Creating permanent, or at least long-lasting, water sources seems to be the primary reason. Learn more in the paper in the journal Restoration Ecology.

You can read a more detailed summary of these three studies in the USGS press release, here.

Photo: Black-bellied salamander (Desmognathus quadramaculatus) was found in the Citico Creek Wilderness, Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee. Not sure what it has to do with these studies, but it’s cute. Photo by Alan Cressler, courtesy USGS.

USGS Calculates How Fast Amphibians Are Falling

Green_Tree_Frog_in_pitcher_plant_Cressler_photoThere have been studies that have calculated the likelihood of extinction for various amphibian species, but the first study to calculate how fast amphibian populations are declining was recently published in PLoS ONE.

The study found that amphibians disappeared from their habitats at a rate of 3.7% per year from 2002 to 2011. Species that are red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) disappeared at an average of 11.6% annually.

“Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said US Geological Survey ecologist Michael Adams, the lead author of the study in a press release. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”

Read the PLoS ONE article, here. (Open access.)
Read the USGS press release on the paper, here.
Read a Washington Post article that is mostly about the rate of amphibian decline, here.

Photo: A green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) sits on the lip of a pitcher plant in a bog in Alabama. Photo by Alan Cressler, used courtesy USGS.

Pesticides Harm Frogs

Rana_temporaria_LC0183If you take frogs and spray them with some of the fungicides, insecticides and herbicides most commonly sprayed on crops, they will die. That is the conclusion of a recent paper by German and Swiss researchers in the journal Scientific Reports that received some notice in the European media.

A brief read-through suggests that the researchers stuck three frogs in a bucket then sprayed them with a pesticide.

Needless to say, the pesticide manufacturers, object, saying that the tested conditions are worse than what happens in real life, an article in The Guardian (a British newspaper) reports. The researchers counter in the Guardian article that when multiple applications of the pesticides wash into nearby bodies of water, it’s equivalent to at least one of the test conditions, were a 10 percent solution of the chemicals were used.

Read The Guardian article here.
Read an article in Agence France-Presse (AFP)

This news is interesting, although I have qualms about the methodology (not the direct spraying or even the bucket, but that according to the AFP article only three frogs were used for each test), but the journal, Scientific Reports, is interesting as well. It’s an open-access journal from Nature Publishing. Researchers pay to play. The journal promises on its website that once payment is received, the paper will be published promptly. It also promises at least one peer reviewer.

Read the whole paper here and see what you think, because, you know, it’s open access.

Photo: European common frog, the species in the study, in Germany. Photo by Jörg Hempel, used under Creative Commons license.