|Volume 18, Issue 3||
|Pacific tree frog, photo from Wikimedia by The High Fin Sperm Whale|
Amphibians are mainly found in wetlands, ponds, streams, and other moist environments. They are rarely found in dry, hot environments because they have extremely thin skin. Their thin skin allows oxygen to enter their bodies and contribute to cellular respiration, but it also allows a lot of water to evaporate out of their bodies and can cause dehydration. Living in moist environments, such as ours, prevents amphibians from losing too much water and becoming dehydrated.
The thin skin of amphibians also plays an important role in scientists being able to examine the health of an ecosystem. Amphibians are considered indicator species, which means that their health is an indication of the environment’s health. The thin skin allows toxins and pollutants to easily enter their bodies, so they are usually one of the first species to show signs of stress and sickness when something is wrong in the environment. Because of their indicator species status, they are also considered keystone species—species in a habitat or environment that other species are dependent upon. The loss of amphibians in an environment would lead to a drastic change.
Amphibians are predators; Adults eat a variety of insects, snails, slugs, and worms, and tadpoles keep waterways clear by eating algae. Amphibians are also prey; they are eaten by snakes, birds, fish, and many mammals such as raccoons and even coyotes.
The 20 native species of amphibians that live in the Cedar Mill area face many threats. Many wetlands, forested areas, and open fields are being developed, destroying their habitat. Pollution and toxins from agricultural pesticides are infiltrating the ecosystem and killing frogs. To help save amphibians from extinction, you can buy local, organic produce; use natural pesticides in home gardens; avoid polluting streams by not washing cars on streets and driveways; and create habitats in your own backyard, such as ponds.
Amphibians are extremely important to the health of the ecosystem in Cedar Mill.. and have I mentioned they eat mosquitos?!
If you want to learn more about how you can help amphibians, visit this article from the National Wildlife Federation.
Published monthly by Cedar Mill News LLC
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Portland, Oregon 97229