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Frogs are vital to our ecosystem - and they're disappearing

Darcy Keenan, The Miami Student

You know that moment of pure terror when you spot a huge spider next to your bed before you realize it's just some fuzz? That feeling might start to happen a lot more, but you won't get the relief you're used to. There is a good chance that frogs might go extinct if we as humans don't start taking global warming seriously and do something about the way we treat the planet. Frogs eat many pests, including spiders and mosquitoes. Not only do frogs eat annoying insects, but they are a large part of the diets of various birds. Frogs are a crucial part of the food chain.

John Alroy, a paleobiologist working at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, has been studying reptiles and amphibians for many years and has come to a few conclusions: the population of frogs worldwide has decreased by 3 percent since the 1970s. This includes the extinction of approximately 200 species of frogs. Alroy has estimated that with no other changes to the environment, the remaining frog population will decrease by seven percent within the century. He calls this a conservative estimate for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because if we humans don't change our behaviors, the environmental threats will only increase.

Alroy has also noticed that there are many places in the tropics where the frog population has dropped, but it has gone unnoticed and/or undocumented, which could mean that frogs are dying at a higher rate than he has theorized.

Though this issue may not be localized to Oxford, it is still an issue here and near here. There have been many studies in Illinois stating the reduction of Western Chorus Frogs. In 2013 the United States Amphibian Atlas Database released a study saying that the frog population in is decreasing almost one percent faster in America than it is in the rest of the world. There are also many issues that we can work towards fixing in America. There are invasive plant species which disrupt natural ecosystems, and even worse is that habitats are being torn down and destroyed for human entertainment.

In Alroy's study, Current Extinction Rates of Reptiles and Amphibians, he compared frogs to canaries in a coal mine. In the 20th Century, before reliable carbon monoxide detectors were made, miners would send canaries into coal mines and as long as the canary was alive and could sing they would know that they were safe. If the canary died the workers knew that they had a limited amount of time to get out of the mine before they also died of monoxide poisoning. If Alroy is right, the frogs are a warning to us that we have to change our ways before other species, maybe even our own, head towards extinction.

Alroy is still uncertain about why exactly the frog population is declining so quickly, but as of right now, his best theory is climate change. However, he admits that he does not think it is climate change alone. He is still not sure what could be working with climate change to destroy these species, and has encouraged paleobiologists and other scientists to research this issue so that they can come up with a solution.

As Alroy and his colleagues continue to research this epidemic, we will hopefully get even more answers. But until then, all we can do is educate those around us about the issue, do whatever we can to end climate change, and try to limit the amount of natural habitats that are destroyed by mankind.