KZN’s treasure house of frog species at risk

2011-11-30 00:00

IT isn’t easy being green. Just ask a frog.

L.R. Minter of the Centre for Environmental Sciences and Management at North West University writes in the journal Current Allergy and Clinical Immunology that there is little doubt that climate change poses a serious threat to amphibian populations.

Amphibians, notably frogs, are found everywhere on all the continents barring Antarctica, a ubiquity that has seen them become unwitting barometers of environmental damage all around the planet.

Worldwide there are about 5 200 described species of frogs (new ones turn up every year) and 157 of these are found in southern Africa, which has 13 of the world’s 32 frog families.

Minter writes that the “greatest species richness occurs in the north-east, along the moist sub-tropical coastline of KwaZulu-Natal”.

Over the last decade frogs on all continents have suffered sudden and high mortality rates, resulting in some species becoming extinct and others having their populations massively reduced.

While there is no consensus as to what exactly is killing frogs, the prime culprits seem to be the destruction of habitats, climate change (which affects reproduction) and disease, particularly in the form of a fungal pathogen.

“There is little doubt that climate change, both directly and indirectly, represents a serious threat to amphibian populations, particularly in areas where the natural habitat has been altered, fragmented or polluted, or where the pathogens are present,” Minter writes.

South Africa’s frogs are most at risk in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Minter says there is an urgent need for funding to maintain new long-term monitoring sites for amphibians in SA to help save the frogs.

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