Worldwide there are more than 6,300 known species of amphibians. Today 32% are threatened, 43% are declining, and at least 168 species are believed to have gone extinct. This class of animals is in critical danger and there are several factors causing the decline including: habitat destruction, disease, pollution, exploitation by pet trade, introduced species, increase ultraviolet-B radiation and global climate change.
Cave Salamander an Ohio endangered amphibian
Because of this and to enhance the protection of local amphibians Cleveland Metroparks created the “Amphibian Task Force.” A task force is a unit or formation established to work on a single defined task or activity. This team is dedicated to the protection of amphibians and their habitats, while sharing the amazing lives and ecological importance of these animals. From the thousands of frogs, salamanders and caecilians of the world, Cleveland Metroparks is home to 24 species. Some like the green frog are very common, while others are seldom seen like the four-toed salamander. The amphibians of special interest to the task force are the explosive breeders that migrate in large numbers to breeding pools in the spring. During this time there are several challenges for these animals including increased exposure to predators and harsh weather, but road mortality and poaching has been demonstrated to be a direct threat to amphibian populations. Through education, monitoring and protection of adults during migration we can assist in ensuring that the highest potential of annual production of offspring can occur. For example, one female wood frog can typically lay 400- 600 eggs per year. If her typical lifespan is five breeding years then she can produce well over 5,000 eggs in her life time. That is just one frog. If we look at a population one venal pool with 100 breeding females it has a potential of producing up to 60,000 eggs each spring. Not to mention the other amphibians potentially breeding in the same vernal pool including salamanders, spring peepers, gray tree frogs, and American toads. That is a lot of baby amphibians entering the ecosystem!
The actions that this task force of Cleveland Metroparks employees hopes to accomplish in 2014 include:
- Increased education through blogs, social media, and programming.
- Increase protection of adult amphibians by closing additional roads and areas during peak migrations, and enforcing rules such as park hours and the illegal collection of animals.
The amphibian task force invites everyone to participate in this effort by becoming stewards for amphibian conservation. Look for more amphibian related information over the next few months!
Spotted Salamander crossing a road during migration