Habitat Loss and Pollution Pummel Amphibians

Giving wetlands their space is crucial to easing environmental pressures on amphibians. Defenders Magazine reports on the current state of affairs:

Slipping Away: Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are sliding into oblivion (Spring 2008)

…It’s not just the colorful, exotic rainforest species that are disappearing, but also the common frogs, toads, newts and salamanders that people used to see in backyards across America. A third of all amphibian species are considered threatened, making them the most vulnerable group of animals in the world. By comparison, 12 percent of birds and 23 percent of mammals are threatened…

…”The biggest factor in amphibian decline is habitat loss and habitat alteration,” Lannoo [Mike Lannoo, editor of Amphibian Declines] says…

Threats to the Ozark hellbender salamander, for example, include habitat loss, overcollection and pollution from man-made chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors…

Tyrone Hayes, the University of California-Berkeley researcher who has studied the impacts of the weed-killing chemical atrazine on frogs, says that environmental chemicals play a significant role in amphibian decline. Hayes led a recently published study that found immune system damage in frogs exposed to a cocktail of nine pesticides commonly used on corn fields…

If amphibians disappear, what then? Lips’ work has shown a cascade of effects in the ecosystem. Amphibians sit in the middle of the food web, so when frogs go, it affects both the things they eat and the things that eat them. Tadpoles eat algae and sediment in streams, so if there are no tadpoles, algae grow unchecked and sediment increases, leading to changes in water quality and aquatic insects. Adult frogs eat insects, so if there are no hungry frogs, some insect populations boom. And some snakes depend on frogs for food, so without their prey, those snakes may starve to death.

Amphibians also carry secrets of biomedicine that could be lost forever. Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville have discovered anti-microbial substances in the skin of certain frogs that stopped HIV infection…

See also:

Polluted Runoff Helps Trash Two Ponds in South Hadley
As The Sustainable Sites Initiative reports, pollution from water runoff is no joke. “Contaminated stormwater runoff from developed land is the leading cause
of water quality problems[23] and accounts for 70 percent of water
pollution in urban areas.[29] Runoff from developed areas can contain
oil, grease, excessive nutrients, pathogens (e.g., E. coli, hepatitis
A), persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals, and heavy metals.”

Today’s Gazette
contains a guest column from Thomas Wallace. He lives next to the Back
Stevens Conservation Property in South Hadley. Its upper and lower
ponds used to feature clean, clear waters used for mill operations and
ice making. Later it supported fishing and passive recreation. Those
days are gone…

Paved Surfaces, Salt and Water Bodies: A Bad Mix

Gazette: “Salt suspected in Southampton well contamination”

Snow and Slush Expose Limits of Storm Drains

Connecticut River Watershed Action Plan: Remove impervious surfaces within 50 feet of streams

Just Released: Planner’s Guide to Wetland Buffers for Local Governments
This survey of today’s buffer management regimes holds several lessons
for Northampton. Among them, the 10-foot buffer zones in our new Wetlands Ordinance
are extremely narrow. Buffer zones in ELI’s survey range from 15 feet
to approximately 350 feet. Some locales require extra setbacks for
structures. Most striking is that some locales desire wider
buffers in areas of intense land use to address the higher levels of
pollution and runoff. By contrast, Northampton has its narrowest
buffers in these areas…

Hyla Ecological Services Analyzes the Proposed Wetlands Ordinance
Buffer function was found to be directly related to the width of the buffer. Ninety-five
percent of buffers smaller than 50 feet suffered a direct human impact
within the buffer, while only 35% of buffers wider than 50 feet
suffered direct human impact.
Human impacts to the buffer zone
resulted in increased impact on the wetland by noise, physical
disturbance of foraging and nesting areas, and dumping refuse and yard
waste. Overall, large buffers reduced the degree of changes in water
quality, sediment load, and the quantity of water entering the adjacent