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As the Frog Hops: What Routes do Frogs Travel in Mountain Environments?
This article is from Issue Wilderness Benefits - Vol. 7 No. 1.
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Frogs are a species of amphibian. In recent years, there has been a decline in the numbers of amphibians worldwide. This decline is thought to be caused by many things. The scientists in this study wanted to discover the types of habitats needed by Columbia spotted frogs at different times of the year. The scientists also wanted to fi nd out how far Columbia spotted frogs will travel or migrate to reach different habitats, and which routes they take when they are migrating.
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Sometimes, environmental scientists must do their research in natural areas away from the disturbance of humans. In the United States, there are few natural areas left where people have not disturbed the land and water. When Congress created the National Wilderness Preservation System, they intended that among its many purposes, wilderness would be used for scientific research. In this research, the scientists wanted to study the migration of frogs at high elevations. They needed to find a large natural area that had several populations of frogs and was not disturbed by human activity. They identified an area called Skyhigh Basin, which is located within Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho (figures 1 and 2). As part of a wilderness, Skyhigh Basin is protected from machines and all human development. Because it is almost 12 miles from a road, few people go there. It was the perfect place to study the migration of frogs.
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Did you know that frogs are complex animals? For many frogs, each season brings the need for a different habitat. You probably know that as tadpoles, young frogs must have water to live. Actually, frogs need watery habitat throughout their lives. They need areas to reproduce, find food, and hibernate. Because one area might not provide for all of these needs, frogs can migrate from area to area, depending on the time of year. In this research, the scientists wanted to know how far and to which habitats a certain species of frog migrated. This particular species is called the Columbia spotted frog. Although it is found throughout the mountains of the Northwestern United States, its population has become threatened in some areas. One of the reasons is the introduction of non-native trout, which eat the tadpoles. Other reasons for the decline in frog populations include taking water from natural streams and lakes for human purposes and the loss of habitat to human development, such as buildings and roads.
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