BARKLEY SOUNDINGS: Frogs important indicators to eco-health

As spring flowers emerge, for the keen listener, our evenings are filling with a symphony of frog songs. Although many locals curse the rain-laden weather that abounds in Alberni Valley, it is pure heaven for the six species of amphibians that call our backyards, wetlands and lush forests home.

A juvenile red-legged frog is discovered amidst the ground cover at the Wickaninnish Road bog by a crew searching for amphibian egg masses.

As spring flowers emerge, for the keen listener, our evenings are filling with a symphony of frog songs. Although many locals curse the rain-laden weather that abounds in Alberni Valley, it is pure heaven for the six species of amphibians that call our backyards, wetlands and lush forests home.

Local habitats support a total of three frog and toad species along with another three aquatic salamanders. One remarkable species, the Red-legged frog, actually makes its calls to its mate underwater.

“They are fantastic!” Ucluelet amphibian biologist and frog enthusiast Barb Beasley said. “They are cool and beautiful and good indicators of ecosystem health.

“Frogs are the canary in the coal mine for the freshwater and terrestrial systems. If we keep them healthy, it is a good omen for our local environment.”

Unfortunately, in B.C., 60 per cent of frogs are at risk, she added.

“Mostly they are of special concern,” added Beasley, “but some are classified by the Species At Risk act as ‘at risk’.”

The Red-legged frog is one of these at risk species. Species At Risk is federal legislation to prevent plant and animal species in Canada from becoming extinct. The status of the species are based on data collection and studies throughout the geographic range of the species. They are then given a protection status from ‘special concern’, to ‘at risk’ and ‘threatened’. The species are provided specific protection measures and recovery strategies are developed and implemented.

Locally, the plight of our amphibian friends is of concern because they are important indicators of the health of our water and soil. Frogs drink through their skin and absorb whatever is there, including all of the bad stuff that collects at low elevations where ponds are often found.

“If we have healthy frog populations, then we know our local ecosystems are healthy,” Beasley reiterated.

Like our sacred local salmon, who transport nutrients from the ocean to the rivers, frogs also move nutrients from one ecosystem, namely ponds and wetlands, to the surrounding forests. “From an ecosystem perspective, frogs are a big part of the food web in the fresh water and terrestrial ecosystem,” Beasley said.

When we think of frogs, we think of ponds and wetlands, but it is important to consider so much more. “Red-legged frogs can move up to five kilometres from where they breed,” she said, “making the surrounding forests and terrestrial ecosystems important linkages to ensure the health of our local frog populations.

“We need to protect more than wetlands, but also the connections between the habitats, as frogs and amphibians are very mobile.”

Full of surprises, frog species can also be found along the ocean edges above the salt zones. Though not a lot of studies take place on the wild west coast, frogs form an important part of the coastal ecosystem, not just the terrestrial.

There are many threats to local frogs and amphibian populations, such as irresponsible logging practices. The largest local threat to our frog friends is development. Many wetlands and frog habitats are being drained and developed along with the terrestrial areas around them.

“The No. 1 problem worldwide facing our frog and amphibian populations is habitat loss. The one thing we need for our frogs is diverse habitat maintained,” Beasley said.

Kelly Poirier is a freelance writer living in the Alberni Valley.

Find out more ways individuals and organizations are showing their appreciation for the coastal environment at

Just Posted

VIDEO: Man extracted from vehicle eight hours after accident near Cameron Lake

People making pit stop at picnic area made crash discovery

Person extracted from vehicle accident in Cameron Lake

A person has been extracted today from a reported vehicle accident in… Continue reading

Learn about Port Alberni’s mayoral candidates with new film series

Alberni Valley filmmaker Dallas Dalziel discusses key issues with candidates

City of Port Alberni issues water quality alert for Kitsuksis Creek area

Kitsuksis Creek residents urged to use alternate drinking water source

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

B.C. man who left hospice to run in upcoming election dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Most Read