Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our Endangered Adirondack Amphibians

This weekend The Wild Center in Tupper Lake is hosting a special symposium that will look at the global and local health of amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, etc) and what it means for the Adirondacks and our planet (details below, along with a full list of Adirondack amphibians).

Probably because they lived in two polluted worlds – they are cold-blooded animals that metamorphose from a water-breathing juvenile to an air-breathing adult – amphibian populations around the globe are threatened or extinct. Some scientists believe it’s related to environmental pollutants, development that reduces their habitat, and global warming (which exacerbates pathogen outbreaks) are to blame.

This brings up the DEC’s Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project (known as the Herp Atlas), a ten year survey (1990-1999) documenting the distribution of New York State’s herpetofauna. Using more than 1,200 volunteers, the project hoped to count 20 species in each survey block (based on 7.5′ topographic quadrangles) – that number was lowered by the end of the project to 15 species in each block – the data is lame, and hasn’t been exploited as far as I can see.

What data there has been made available is here, although I’m not sure why it hasn’t been included in the USGS North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.
Records prior to 1989 were also supposed to be compiled for a historic database, but the online data doesn’t even include 1999’s findings, let alone any historic data or analysis. So all the public really has to work with is a simple map and a series of fact sheets on the state’s amphibians and reptiles.

We have to wonder (no we don’t, we already know) why the Whitetail-deer management effort is so comprehensive, when the the herps are given short-shrift. The fact is that amphibians are experiencing an obvious and serious decline that suggests they may be “toads in the coal mine.” How about at least a Landowner’s Guide for Managing Amphibians?

Here are the details for the Wild Center’s Amphibian Weekend, which is free for members or with paid admission:

July 26 – 11am-12pm: “Amphibians of New York State” in the Flammer Theater with Dr. Glenn Johnson, Professor Biology at SUNY Potsdam and co-author of Reptiles and Amphibians of New York State 12pm-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall. 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater Why Amphibians Matter with Dr. Kevin Zippel, Program Director of Amphibian Ark, a scientific initiative sponsored by the Chicago Zoological Society . The Chicago Zoological Society is leading zoos worldwide in the globally coordinated public awareness campaign entitled “2008 The Year of the Frog.” 2-2:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in The Great Hall. 3pm-4pm: Children’s Program in The Great Hall with Wild Center naturalists called “Cyclin’ Around the Pond: The Life Cycles of Amphibians in Blue Pond”.

July 27 – 11am-12pm: Get “Up Close with Wild Center Amphibians” in the Flammer Theater with our own amphibian biologist, Frank Panaro. This program will cover the biology of Adirondack amphibians with special glimpses of them under the camera. 12-12:30pm: Amphibian encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 1pm-2pm: Lecture in Flammer Theater entitled “Conservation of Kihansi Spray Toad” with Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Curator of Herpetology at The Bronx Zoo. Other topics covered will be global amphibian health and zoo initiatives to protect and conserve amphibians worldwide. 2pm-2:30pm: Amphibian Encounter with a Wild Center naturalists in the Great Hall 3pm-4pm: Family Art Program- “Flippin’ Frogs and Slithery Salamanders”- Origami frogs and salamanders (the frogs can actually flip!).

Here is a complete list of amphibians from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry:

Salamanders (Order Caudata)

Mole Salamanders (Family Ambystomidae)
Blue-spotted salamander ~ Ambystoma laterale
Spotter salamander ~ Ambystoma maculatum

Lungless Salamanders (Family Plethodontidae)
Spring salamander ~ Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
Four-toed salamander ~ Hemidactylium scutatum
Red-backed salamander ~ Plethodon cinereus
Two-lined salamander ~ Eurycea bislineata
Mountain dusky salamander ~ Desmognathus ochrophaeus
Northern dusky salamander ~ Desmognathus fuscus

Newts (Family Salamandridae)
Red-spotted newt ~ Notophthalmus viridescens

Mudpuppies (Family Proteidae)
Mud puppy ~ Necturus maculosus

Frogs and Toad (Order Anura)

True Toads (Family Bufonidae)
American toad ~ Bufo americanus

Treefrogs (Family Hylidae)

Spring peeper ~ Hyla crucifer
Gray tree frog ~ Hyla versicolor

True Frogs (Family Ranidae)

Bullfrog ~ Rana catesbeiana
Green frog ~ Rana clamitans
Mink frog ~ Rana septentrionalis
Wood frog ~ Rana sylvatica
Leopard frog ~ Rana pipiens
Pickerel frog ~ Rana palustris


John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 40 years.

After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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