Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More bad news for frogs

Scientists have been closely studying frogs for a number of years now, trying to figure out what is causing gross abnormalities in many of them and why these wonderful creatures may be slowly slipping away. This ancient species could be on its way to extinction.

It has already been determined that pollution of their environment is one of the main culprits causing their problems. Frogs are also extremely sensitive to changes in climate, so they are being attacked by modern society on many levels.

Now comes a report from the National Academy of Sciences, as reported in Discover magazine, that details how a herbicide that has found its way into our waterways can alter amphibians' hormones and actually cause them to change sexes. The potential exists that the herbicide would have similar effects on other animals, including humans.

The herbicide in question is atrazine and, apparently, it is widely used in the Mid-West among corn crops and other row crops. It has been found in many of the waterways there. In sufficient quantities, it can have the effect of chemically castrating male frogs and turning them into egg-producing females. This does not bode well for the sex ratio among amphibians, nor for the health of the environment.

As a gardener, it certainly gives me pause when thinking about using any chemicals in my garden. The only herbicide I have ever used is Roundup which has glyphosate as its active ingredient. While it has the reputation of being relatively benign and I am not aware of any problems that it has caused, I don't think I'll be using it again. My yard has a thriving population of amphibians and reptiles of many kinds and I would not want to add anything to their environment that might cause problems for them.

I have always tried to be as organic as possible in my gardening practices, but I have used chemicals of various kinds from time to time. This story makes me want to stop - cold turkey. I think the frogs and toads and other critters in my yard might be happier and healthier if I did. Maybe I would, too.

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