Nature Center Notes
Have you heard? Love is in the air for WNC’s frogs and toads. ‘Tis the season for frogs and toads to begin their serenades of ribbits, croaks and peeps to be heard at sunset anywhere a water source may be present.
The culprits singing these wild songs are male frogs crooning to potential mates. Each individual frog has a unique sound, and a female frog can pick out a single male’s love song from hundreds of other frogs. After focusing on a single call, a female can assess the quality of her potential mate based only on the noises he makes. Males will also listen to each other’s songs to determine if they are worth the competition.
From February to April, you can hear an array of frog calls, from Spring Peepers to the American Bullfrog. While listening to these unique sounds can be pleasant, it also serves an important purpose. Frogs are what are known as a keystone species. Their presence greatly impacts the ecosystem in which they reside. It also means that the absence of these animals can seriously impact the environment in a negative way. They are also considered an indicator species, meaning that their presence indicates the health of an ecosystem. Frogs make excellent indicator species because they are sensitive to changes in their environments, especially pollution. If scientists notice a decline of an indicator species, it means there's something awry in the environment and it gives us a chance to fix it. What most commonly impacts keystone and indicator species is pollution, habitat loss and other human-related influences.
Luckily, there is an on-going citizen science project called Frogwatch USA that allows us to track frog calls and input our findings into a national database. The more frog call observations recorded into the database, the more indicative it is of a healthy ecosystem.
This project is a very unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the aqueous environment around us while also monitoring one of the most sensitive biological indicators we have. This program is completely volunteer based, so if you are interested in learning more and becoming a citizen researcher, please visit http://AZA.org/frogwatch for more information. If you would like to practice your visual identification of frogs and learn more about them, visit the WNC Nature Center’s Appalachian Station.