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UV radiation may not be a factor in amphibian declines

Two reports published in a leading science journal cast doubt on the importance of ultraviolet-b radiation (UV-B) as a factor driving amphibian population declines. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Washington, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just released their research findings in the journal Ecology.

Because UV-B has been shown in field and laboratory experiments to cause deformities and increased mortality in amphibian embryos, some scientists have contended that increases in UV-B from thinning of atmospheric ozone have contributed to declines of frog populations worldwide. However, one of the shortcomings of this earlier research has been a lack of knowledge about the actual exposure of amphibians to UV-B in their natural habitats. The research presented in the journal Ecology sheds light on UV-B as a factor in amphibian declines.

According to USGS research ecologist Michael Adams, "This is only the second study to look at how the distribution of amphibians relates to potential UV-B exposure. Most previous studies only addressed physiological effects of UV-B but did not provide evidence that any negative effects translated into population losses."

Research by Adams and his colleagues showed that dissolved organic matter in the water absorbs UV-B in amphibian habitats and protected 85 percent of the amphibian habitats the researchers sampled.

This study sampled 136 potential amphibian-breeding sites in the Olympic Mountains of Washington and the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and measured how well UV-B could penetrate the water. The levels of dissolved organic matter found in this study were high enough to protect the majority of amphibian populations from the levels of UV-B that are known to be harmful to amphibians.

The second study, which began in 1986, discussed the breeding behavior of boreal chorus frogs at a pond in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains west of Fort Collins, Colo
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Contact: Ruth Jacobs
ruth_jacobs@usgs.gov
541-750-1047
United States Geological Survey
3-Dec-2002


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