Some creatures serve as an early warning system for environmental trouble; these are considered indicator species by scientists. Consider amphibians, for example. Their skins absorb chemicals easily, and because most amphibians spend part of their lives on land and part in water, if they develop ill health it may be a sign that the environment (land, air, water, or all three) is in serious trouble.
Some frog species are disappearing at an alarming rate across Canada and around the world. Both common and rare species are being affected. For example, populations of northern leopard frogs are fluctuating in Alberta and declining in Manitoba. Concerned scientists keep track of frog numbers through global and Canada-wide surveys.
Information collected by concerned wildlife groups shows that some amphibian populations are shrinking, most likely because their habitats are being changed or destroyed by humans.
Salamanders are also amphibians. Four species make their homes in the Covey Hill area of Quebec: the northern spring salamander, the four-toed salamander, the mountain dusky salamander, and the northern dusky salamander. These secretive creatures eat insects and generally mind their own business. Altogether, 15 amphibian species live in the Covey Hill region, thanks to its diversity of soggy habitats.
Conservationists are working to protect this unique habitat from development and pollution, so that wildlife in the region can thrive.
• You may be able to help a group in your province or territory gather data. Every amphibian sighting is important, even if just one or two lonely frogs make an appearance. All the sightings put together teach scientists a lot about these water-loving species.
• The Toronto Zoo's Adopt-a-Pond program enlists the help of Ontario schools and residents. Those involved send in details about amphibians they've sighted, usually at a nearby "adopted" pond. This information is useful to scientists studying both reptiles and amphibians in Ontario. It also helps protect precious wetland habitat.
• See "Build an Amphibian Pond" for more ideas on how to help frogs, toads, and salamanders in your backyard and community.