When I was in Costa Rica for a bird photography tour recently with Tropical Birding, I had an opportunity to visit Frog’s Heaven, a place that specializes in catching wild frogs for photography. The frogs are subsequently released back into the environment. These tiny frogs are getting harder to find, even in the optimized environments of the Frog’s Heaven preserve. Research suggests that even though amphibians are severely declining worldwide, there is no simple solution to halting or reversing these declines. Amphibians are good indicators of significant environmental changes. Amphibians, unlike people, breathe at least partly through their skin, which is constantly exposed to everything in their environment. Consequently, their bodies are much more sensitive to environmental factors such as disease, pollution, toxic chemicals, ultraviolet radiation, and habitat destruction. The worldwide occurrences of amphibian declines and deformities could be an early warning that some of our ecosystems, even seemingly pristine ones, are seriously out of balance. We were able to photograph a nice cross section of the different types of frogs which I thought I would present here.
Across the forests and prairies of Asia, and vast savannahs of Africa, live secret societies of tiny termite architects. They are masters of construction, their sophisticated green-energy designs perfectly adapted to their often hot and arid surroundings. Most homeowners are aware of the destructive power of an army of termites but the fungus termites of Southern Africa are the focus of life and regeneration on the African savannah. With the aid of fungus farms, tended deep within the nest, the termites of southern Africa transform wood and dead leaves into organic nutrients which sustain vegetation and provide shelter and food for the surrounding wildlife. The 33 pounds (15 kilograms) or so of termites in a typical mound will, in an average year, move a fourth of a metric ton (about 550 pounds) of soil and several tons of water. They are not only remarkable architects of their own living spaces but are an essential part of the ecosystem and survival of virtually all the life around them. Termites transform the ecosystem in a variety of complex ways. Termites import coarse particles into the otherwise fine soil in the vicinity of their mounds which promotes water infiltration of the soil. The mounds also show elevated levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. All this beneficial soil alteration appears to directly and indirectly mold the ecosystem far beyond the immediate vicinity of the mound.