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Notes From The Field Blog

A Delicate Balance

Posted: 3/6/2014
Posted By: Tim Krynak
Original Source: Notes from the Field


I often hear how lucky we are to have this wonderful park system and I wholeheartedly agree.  There are opportunities for everyone to get out and enjoy the natural world around them.  As a park district, it can be challenging to find the balance between conserving the land, protecting the resources and providing visitors with the experiences they desire. 

Spotted Salamander in a vernal pool

One challenge we are faced with every spring is protecting amphibians as they migrate to breeding ponds.  In Brecksville Reservation, we are fortunate to be able to close a section of Valley Parkway on rainy nights in late winter and early spring to protect spotted and Jefferson salamanders, wood frogs and spring peepers that cross the road.  I’m sure it may inconvenience some commuters when the road is closed but it saves the lives of these animals as they move to ponds to reproduce.  It also provides wildlife enthusiasts with the opportunity to witness this amazing phenomenon.

Experiencing amphibian migration

Amphibian populations around the world are declining. Habitat loss is one major factor.  As land use changes due to development, agriculture, etc., the habitats of many species disappear.  Many of our local species return annually to the pond that they came from to mate and lay eggs.  If that pond disappears so will the populations that depend on it.  If a road is put through their migration route, they may get lucky and make the journey - or not.   

Disease is another huge factor.  Amphibian chytrid “Bd” a fungus is one of the main culprits of amphibian declines and even species extinction.  The fungus affects the skin, which for amphibians is how they take in oxygen, water and electrolytes.  Some amphibian species are much more susceptible to the effects of Bd, while others are more “resistant.”  Ranavirus is another disease affecting frogs and salamanders often causing mass mortality in some species.  These diseases can be spread by amphibians moving to different areas but also by us, on our boots or equipment.  We know we have both diseases in our area. 

So what?  Does it really matter if we lose amphibians?  I think of nature as a delicate web that can be easily broken.  Our amphibians help control insect populations, including mosquitoes!  They also provide food for many different animals.  They are indicator species, like ‘’canaries in the coal mine,” warning us of problems in the environment.  Chemicals and proteins in their skin can offer medical cures for human diseases.  Besides, who cannot love the face of a salamander or listening to the chorus of frogs at a pond in the spring??

Kelly McGinnis
Brecksville Nature Center


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