Times of India: If not kissing the frog, at least appreciating their ‘croak’ may lead to some headway in to climate research . For the first time frog song is being monitored using automated sound recorders by Indian scientists to track the impact of climate change on amphibians in the forests of southern Western Ghats. The methodology for tracking their call has recently been standardized by researchers.
Principal investigators of the study were struck with the idea when three of them were 100 feet above the ground on a rainy day, sitting on a tree shelter for canopy research at Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. They heard frog song and decided to investigate how it could relate to climate.
Since frogs and toads respond to changes in atmospheric moisture and temperature, the team decided on analysing the sound recordings of frog song and corelate it with readings from climate data loggers.
“Amphibians have long been considered to be the barometers of the climate any subtle variations in the atmospheric conditions like moisture availability and temperature is likely to have profound impacts on them’ said Seshadri.KS, who is heading the project and is part of the team that won the Conservation Leadership Programme-Save Our Species with senior fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research and Ecology, Ganesh T.
The team is using programmable automated sound recording systems called ‘Song Meter’ and coupling it with an automated weather data logger device. These units are set in remote forest areas and programmed to switch on or off at specified intervals . During the South West and North East monsoons , of the past two years, they have been able to listen to the forest at day and night.
“Amphibians are facing unprecedented declines world over. This has largely been attributed to loss of habitat , fungal infections and global climate change. We are lacking the big picture in India . So long term monitoring may help,” he said.
Seshadri explained that the frog song can be the unique element that will help scientists in the future. “For example, some frogs vocalize in a wide window of time while some, are active for a very short window of time, may be for a few weeks. If the climate change predictions are true, amphibians should be negatively be affected. By monitoring the vocalizing activity , we can come up with an activity calendar for each of the indicator species. Using this information, we can discern the changes in observed patterns and interpret it in the context of climatic variations . This is the goal of the project,” he added.
In the process of documenting various frog species in KMTR, the team consisting of Seshadri, R Ganesan and S D Biju of Delhi University recently spotted the bubble nest frog, which was last spotted 136 years ago. They also spotted Beddome’s toad that was seen almost a decade ago.
While the monitoring process is long-term , the methodology has been standardized and the initial results of their study were shared at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in New Zealand held in December. The results would also be published soon next year. By: Jayashree Nandi
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