Anthropogenic climate change has significant implications for frog populations and their habitats, contributing to the decline of frog species worldwide. The impacts of climate change on frogs are multifaceted, and the decline of the Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) can be attributed to a combination of factors. These factors interact and compound, leading to the disappearance of frogs from entire regions. The situation is dire, and urgent action is necessary to protect these valuable creatures and their ecosystems.

Oregon spotted frogs are native to the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Sadly, they have been lost from over 90% of their historic range. These frogs carry special cultural significance for Indigenous groups whose traditional territories encompass the habitat of this species, including (but not limited to) stories, teachings, and practices that are integral to the cultural identity of local communities. They are also of particular scientific interest due to their unique biology, behaviour, and ecological interactions! For example, the Oregon spotted frog is one of few frog species adapted to cold, high-elevation habitats.

Distribution of the Oregon spotted frog in Canada (from SARA – Species at Risk Act)

Oregon spotted frogs are nature’s unsung stewards of biodiversity! Occupying a critical position in the food chain, their presence helps maintain a balanced ecosystem while preventing the unchecked proliferation of certain species.

Their presence in wetland habitats has been acknowledged as a bioindicator of the condition of the habitats they occupy. A bioindicator acts as a natural alarm system, providing information about the health of an environment. Scientists can determine how healthy an ecosystem is simply by observing the presence of a particular species! Studying and conserving this fascinating species can provide insights into amphibian declines and the broader issues affecting wetland ecosystems.

An adult female Oregon spotted frog

The degradation and loss of wetland habitats are one of the leading causes in the decline of Oregon spotted frogs. These frogs depend on the preservation of wetlands, and as wetlands are destroyed or altered, frogs lose their breeding and foraging grounds. This occurs when changes in temperature and precipitation patterns affect the Oregon spotted frog’s habitat, altering water availability and drying wetlands. Many frog species are highly sensitive to temperature and moisture levels, and shifts in these conditions can render habitats unsuitable for breeding and survival.

As climate conditions change, frogs attempt to migrate to more suitable habitats. However, barriers such as urban development or unsuitable landscapes can hinder their ability to move. When fragmentation of wetland habitats occur, the movement and dispersal of Oregon spotted frogs are disrupted. As a result, populations of frogs become isolated from one another and are at higher risk for genetic issues, disease, and local extinction. In areas where habitat alteration has occurred, the natural balance of predator-prey relationships has often also been disturbed, resulting in frogs being more vulnerable to predators. Warmer temperatures can promote the growth and spread of diseases, including chytrid. The introduction of non-native species and disease has also contributed to their loss: our very own breeding population of Oregon spotted frogs have been infected with the deadly chytrid fungus in the past.

Climate change can also affect the behaviour of frogs, including their mating calls, feeding patterns, and hibernation cycles. These changes may impact their ability to find mates, locate food, and survive through unfavourable conditions. It is not too late, however!

Let’s leap into action!

Addressing the impact of climate change on frog populations requires a combination of strategies:

  • Habitat Protection and Restoration: Preserving and restoring wetlands, ponds, and other amphibian habitats can provide frogs with refuges against the impacts of climate change.
  • Climate-Resilient Land Management: Sustainable land management practices can help mitigate habitat degradation and fragmentation, allowing frogs to move and adapt to changing conditions.
  • Monitoring and Research: Studying the responses of frog populations to changing climate conditions can inform conservation efforts and help identify critical areas for intervention.
  • Climate Adaptation Strategies: Managed translocations, captive breeding programs, and habitat creation can help facilitate the movement of frog populations to more suitable habitats as conditions change.
  • Global Climate Action: Addressing climate change on a broader scale by reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential to mitigate its impacts on frogs and other species.

Here are a few ways that you can help:

Be sure to visit the Citizen Science Portal on the Government of Canada’s website for a broad list of citizen science opportunities:

Juvenile Oregon spotted froglets

Conserving frog species in the face of climate change requires a coordinated effort among scientists, Indigenous communities, policymakers, researchers, conservation organizations, and the public. Such coordinated efforts are needed to protect habitats, mitigate threats, and develop strategies for ensuring the survival of this remarkable species. Allowing the decline of frogs to proceed unchecked could lead to imbalances in the ecosystem, which could have broader repercussions.
Historically, the Oregon spotted frog has received less attention in conservation efforts compared to more well-known species. By conserving the Oregon spotted frog, we can take part in fulfilling our duty to protect the natural world for future generations.

Frog conservation is not just a scientific endeavor; it’s a call to action for all of us. Frogs are vital components of ecosystems, playing roles in pest control, nutrient cycling, and serving as indicators of environmental health. Together we can leap toward a future where frogs flourish and the ecosystems they inhabit remain vibrant and diverse. The plight of frogs serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance that exists in our ecosystems. From their role in controlling insect populations to being indicators of environmental health, these amphibians are more than just inhabitants of wetlands; they are vital contributors to the intricate web of life on Earth.

As we navigate a rapidly changing world, it is our responsibility to ensure that these gentle voices are not silenced forever. Let’s do our part!

Melissa Goodman

Conservation Programs Assistant – BC Projects

Melissa is a conservationist working with our BC wetlands team, which involves recovery efforts for the western painted turtle and the Oregon spotted frog. In addition to this, she is also involved in the Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly recovery program. Melissa has over ten years of experience in rescuing and rehabilitating birds of prey and loves to learn about the intricacies of all species! Melissa is presently studying how genetics and human-influenced actions affect conservation efforts and what can be done to mitigate adverse impacts to species.

We need your help

Donate to save endangered species