February 2009

From the people who brought you “Silence of the Bees”: PBS NATURE will croak about amphibian crisis in April: http://tinyurl.com/aejzkb
Here’s the news release about the April 5 special:

There is an environmental crisis unfolding in our own backyard and around the globe. As the celebration of Earth Day draws near, NATURE takes an in-depth look at the greatest mass extinction of amphibians since the dinosaurs. Frogs have been on this planet for more than 250 million years; now scientists are struggling to keep them alive. NATURE “Frogs: The Thin Green Line” airs Sunday, April 5, 2009, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS.
Researchers have found evidence that one of the major reasons for the loss of one-third of our amphibians today stems from a fungus called chytrid. Unfortunately, the experts don’t know where it started and don’t know how to stop it. What they do know is that it grows in high altitudes, needs water and requires a host to spread. The hosts are the many beautiful species of amphibians the disease destroys.
“Once again, we’re fortunate to be working with Emmy-Award winning filmmaker Allison Argo,” says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. “Allison is able to craft a powerful story with remarkable footage capturing the intimate details of both life and death of these creatures.”
Frogs sit right in the middle of the food chain, causing a tremendous change in the ecosystem affecting fish, water quality, snakes and birds. Because of chytrid, other creatures are disappearing. In Central Panama, biologists have evacuated frogs from the forest in order to save their lives. Today, their facility shelters 58 species of frogs — some of the rarest on earth.
Where once there were the calls of frogs, there is now silence, and this silence is traveling through Central America and South America. Yet two hours south of the Panama Canal, there is a small patch of forest called Burbayar, where frogs live as they have for millions of years. Scientists in Panama are hoping this disease hasn’t yet reached this isolated forest. The Burbayar seems to be healthy, with thriving frogs and insects. The question is, for how long?
NATURE has won nearly 450 honors from the television industry, parent groups, the international wildlife film community and environmental organizations, including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club. Most recently, the series won a Peabody Award for “Silence of the Bees.”

Thanks to the CoquiFrogNews blog , I learned that Jeff Corwin’s Animal Planet special on the amphibian crisis can be viewed in its entirety HERE. Mr. Corwin is right up there with Sir David Attenborough in raising awareness of the crisis, and he is a major supporter of Amphibian Ark.

We don’t know how North American crayfish hopped the pond, but scientists have announced that crayfish are proliferating in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Spain — and destroying salamanders and other amphibians in the process. Humans in Europe haven’t yet developed a taste for crayfish, so there is no natural predator of the invaders. Story here. This is ironic since in America we can’t get enough of crayfish, or crawfish, as we celebrate Mardi Gras.

Ingenious use of Google Earth to save amphibians in England. When it’s mating time for amphibians, they often cross highways by the hundreds to make their love connection. And they get run over by cars and trucks. It is contributing to the disappearance of species. Now, in England, concerned people can put special toad postings on Google Earth to show where the crossings typically happen. The group behind it is Froglife. Maybe motorists will take note and drive extra carefully in those areas. Hey, come to think of it, there’s no reason you can’t do the same in your town. Here’s the full story. And here’s link to see how it works. And here is a previous post about the road kill problem in Indiana.

And what’s this have to do with amphibians? Amphibian Ark? Biodiversity? Those are good questions. For now, just laugh along. Oh, and here’s another post involving cats.

Another example of human benefits of biodiversity. Story here. A while back I posted about amphibians also helping to rid the world of west nile virus bearing mosquitoes. Here is that post.

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