Frogs, the sentinels indicating chemical overload in the environment

Is the demise of frog populations across the planet signaling the overuse of chemicals or the effects of climate change? Recent research has implicated a combination of both and so the “canary effect” may be more troubling than first thought. Frogs are important indicators of water quality, and are considered “a sentinel species, meaning that what affects amphibians presently may affect other animal species in the future.”

In fact, if we add this to the mysterious deaths of bee populations in the US, we have to be concerned about the possible effects of pesticides and herbicides on the ecosystems of the world. The proliferation of genetically modified crops has actually increased the usage of pesticides and herbicides in the US and Canada. The coming foray of Australia into growing GM crops must then be seen as problematic and needing adequate monitoring to ensure that we do not increase the chemical load on our environment.

The commonly used herbicide atrazine has been shown to have a drastic effect on the sexuality of male frog populations. Its use is still common in Australian agriculture but it has been banned in some countries, including France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Norway, as it can persist in the environment. Atrazine is the most commonly-found pesticide in groundwater throughout Australia. What affect then is this having on our own frog species?

Playing such an important role in the ecosystem, amphibians are showing us that it is time for change. The warnings of Rachel Carson’s book of 1962, “The Silent Spring“, may finally come to pass as we are slowly connecting the dots on the mystery of the disappearing populations.

Will we heed the message? Will we be next?

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Tuesday, 8 January, 2008.

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