Across the globe, population growth and expansion have caused wildlife habitat and the number of species to greatly decrease. Habitat destruction, alteration, fragmentation, pollution, and disease have caused nearly 500 species of vertebrates to become extinct since 1900 – an extinction rate that is 100 times higher than normal – according to a recent study by researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Frogs belong to the class amphibia, which includes over 6,000 species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians, nearly a third of which are considered threatened with extinction. According to the IUNC Red List of Threatened Species, amphibians are currently the most threatened class of wildlife. These statistics are particularly concerning because amphibians are very important species; they play an integral role in many ecosystems, they provide numerous medicinal benefits, and they have been culturally important species for thousands of years.
In many food webs, amphibians play an important role. They are efficient in nutrient cycling by being both herbivores and carnivores and preying on both vertebrates and invertebrates. Because they consume high amounts of algae, frog tadpoles help keep waters clear from algal blooms. Adult frog species eat mosquitoes, flies, and ticks, helping reduce the occurrence of vector-borne diseases. Amphibians are very sensitive to slight changes in the environment, making them good ecological indicators.
Because frogs produce various skin secretions, they are often researched for medicinal purposes. Numerous studies have discovered compounds in frogs that can be used in medicine, from painkillers to antibiotics. One study alone found 76 potential medicinal substances secreted from the Russian Brown frog. An estimated 10% of Nobel Prizes in physiology and medicine are a result of studying frogs.
Disappearing Frogs Project
With a strong interest to raise awareness and save the frogs, Terry Thirion of Charlotte created the Disappearing Frogs Project in 2013. Thirion’s goal is to raise awareness for the decline and extinction of amphibians through art because, “art has unique powers to communicate truths and inspire people to action.” The project began with a month-long multimedia art installation at the Charlotte Art League, which featured more than 100 artists and over 200 original art pieces.
Last year, the project partnered with the Amphibian Survival Alliance, which is now the largest amphibian conservation partnership. The partnership inspires people to take action through research, education, and conservation. So far, the project has helped protect over 15,000 hectares of land, supported 46 priority species, invested nearly $1.5 million, and awarded 39 grants.
This year, the Disappearing Frogs Project is bringing their awareness events to the Triangle! Events include art exhibitions at the NC State University Crafts Center, the Roundabout Art Collection, the Museum of Life & Science, and Marbles Kids Museum as well as talks by prominent scientists and a feature on WUNC’s The State of Things on February 25.
DFP has also put out a call for artists who would like to participate in this effort. Professional and emerging artists and art students, who are passionate about art and environmental issues, are invited to create art that celebrates amphibians and their environments. You can start submitting artwork for consideration on February 1.
Be sure to look through the Disappearing Frogs Project website to learn more about frogs and what you can do to help!
“When we save the frogs, we’re protecting all our wildlife, all our ecosystems and all humans.”
Dr. Kerry Kriger, Founder & Executive Director of SAVE THE FROGS!