The endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog once was very abundant in the Sierra Nevada western mountain range, but has disappeared from 93% of it’s original range. In 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service added the frogs to the endangered species list. The frogs suffered greatly when lakes were stocked with non-native fish including trout that competed for food as well as ate frogs and tadpoles since the 1900s. Then, in 1970, a new fungus appeared that devastated most of the remaining population.
Luckily, twenty-five years ago, Yosemite stopped stocking non-native fish and also started removing trout from lakes to revert some of these lakes back to their original fish-less conditions, and healthy frog populations are rising. The frogs also seem to have been able to adapt to resist the devastating effects of the fungus.
Due to the continuing work in improving conditions for frogs, their population has rebounded, espeically in Yosemite. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, the frog population has increased sevenfold in Yosemite National Park in the past twenty years.
Study lead author Roland Knapp, a biologist at the University of California, also helped by working to remove non-native trout from lakes. Says Knapp: “If you take a species that was once so abundant out of a food web, you’re going to have a whole series of unintended consequences,” he says. “For example, we know that when the frogs disappear from one of these sites, the garter snakes, which are one of their major predators, also disappear.”
“By restoring frogs to these habitats and to these food webs, we restore the entire food web.”
This is just another great story of how nature will rebound if we give it a chance! We make mistakes, but if we learn from our mistakes, we can help restore proper balance in our ecosystem for the future.
Photo by: devinedmonds