project news

Frogs & friends in the forest

News item submitted by Flora O'Brien
News item dated 5 Aug 2010


This summer the Frontier Costa Rica forest project celebrates its first birthday! The past year has seen several research studies become well established in the forest reserve of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. The Frontier team have been busy conducting surveys on rainforest birds, big cats, turtles, hermit crabs, amphibians and otters. Over recent months, one of the project’s main focuses has been amphibians, so here’s an update on how they’re getting on.


Frogs are both abundant and diverse in the Osa Penisula, including species such as the Red Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) and the Smokey Jungle frog (Leptodactylus pentadactylus). These amphibians are useful indicators of climate change due to the nature of their skin and habitat specificity. Increasing temperatures can indeed be a threat for frogs since their porous skin puts them at risk of desiccation (drying out). Hotter, drier climates also make it harder for frogs to find both suitably wet microhabitats to live in (such as lagoons) and places to breed (requiring leaf litter to build nests). So, all in all, climate change is bad news for these amphibians. Already there are worrying reports that amphibian populations in the area have declined dramatically, by as much as 70%.


Luckily, Frontier is here! The team are in the process of conducting a long-term study investigating how climate change affects the frog populations living in both leaf litter and swamp areas. The team have been hard at work expanding their survey plots in the forest and refining their research methods, meaning they can gather more data on frogs, as well as other amphibians and reptiles. By recording which species are present and their abundance, the team can build a picture of the structure of these frog populations. In conjunction with weather recordings, over time the team will be able to observe how the amphibians of Osa are reacting to climate change.