By: Harrison York
While a wide range of species are currently considered endangered due to habitat loss, direct human interference, and climate change, amphibian populations are declining at a faster rate, leading to increasing concerns over the health of their respective environments.
Amphibians have long been regarded as a valuable indicator species. Because their population can grow or shrink very quickly in response to changes in their environments, their population is a good indicator of the health of their habitat. This is due to the fact that amphibians breathe—in part or in whole (depending on the species)—through their skin. They are therefore susceptible to any and all changes in their habitat as they directly ingest whatever they come into contact with. These environmental changes can include a rise or fall in regional temperature, the introduction of an invasive species, or a new chemical in the water supply. As an indicator species, the decline in amphibian populations is a warning that something in the environment is wrong, and if the problem worsens, more species may become similarly endangered. Environmental biologists often closely monitor amphibian communities to detect these problems before they begin to affect other species, and the ecosystem as a whole. If these issues are caught quickly, conservation and recovery efforts can stop a problem from growing into a catastrophe.
Additionally, amphibians fill both predator and prey roles in their food chains. This means that their increased or decreased presence has a far-reaching impact on many other species, such as insects, reptiles, and birds. This indirectly impacts larger mammals and plant life, ultimately altering the flow of whole ecosystems.