Sounds of the Tropics: Part 2:
How are frogs responding to hurricanes, droughts, and climate change?
Acoustic monitoring can help us understand how the frog community in Puerto Rico responds to different types of disturbances.
Frogs are very sensitive to changes in their environment. For this reason, these animals are often chosen as indicators of habitat quality. Frogs' semi-permeable skin makes them vulnerable to desiccation (or loss of moisture), but other factors like habitat loss (e.g., deforestation), climate change, and disease are playing important roles in the global decline of amphibian populations. The presence and abundance of frog species can provide important clues about the health of a habitat.
The Coqui frog community on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico faces a unique combination of factors. First, in pre-Columbian times most of the island was covered in tropical forest, but by the peak of the sugar cane boom (~1940), forest cover declined to <10%. In the 1940s and 50s, socioeconomic changes led to rural-urban migration and the decline of agriculture. Today forest cover is >50%. Although deforestation is presently not a serious problem for the frogs of Puerto Rico, they still face hurricanes, disease, droughts, and warming temperatures.
In this case study, we use acoustic monitoring and occupancy modeling to understand how frog distributions have responded to these diverse types of disturbances.