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  • Writer's pictureChris Kirkby

Artificial Raised Pond Experiment for Frogs (by Paul Kridemann, intern)

20 July 2017

Have you ever wondered what can be done for the poor frogs that lose their breeding habitat to human development? Many species of rainforest frogs of course breed in what are called phytotelmata—small bodies of water suspended in the branches or epiphytes of trees. Okay, this issue may not keep you up at night but it does for the members of Fauna Forever. The Herpetology Team in particular. Today they set up an experiment, devised and coordinated by their fearless leader Dylan Singer, at the Collpa Tambopata Lodge to determine whether or not artificial ponds attached to trees could work.

The first step was to make the artificial ponds. This was accomplished by recycling some old plastic bottles, cutting them up and reshaping them with some good old fashioned creativity and electrical tape. Four different types of ponds where made and the idea is to see which of the types, if any, will be the most effective in the right location. Different depths and entrance hole sizes at the top of the ponds were the factors differentiating the four different types of ponds. Depths of ten and five centimetres were chosen because they replicate the sorts of depths that average phytotelmata exhibit in the Amazon basin and hole sizes with a diameter of ten centimetres and five centimetres to see if some species prefer phytotelmata that restricted potential access for their larger predators.

Next was determining where to put the ponds. Five different habitat types were identified as good candidates for the experiment; recently disturbed areas (around the edge of the Collpa Tambopata Lodge), next to the river bank, bamboo thicket, terra firma forest in tourist zones and terra firma forest in an undisturbed area.

The third criteria was the placement of the ponds within these five habitat types and a spacing of twenty metres apart, five metres from the edge of the habitat type was chosen because five metres from the edge means less interference from looky-loos and the prying hands of tourists. The two different heights of one and two metres above the ground were the final two variables chosen so with all these varied factors, Dylan and his team should have some good data to work at the end of the experiment.

The plan is to leave the ponds alone and let them fill naturally with rainwater as any tree hollow might do in the wild and let them “acclimatise” into the natural system. In about a years time when Fauna Forever returns to the lodge the Herpetology team will begin to monitor them for breeding frogs and toads. The hope is that this method can become a viable means of providing breeding grounds for creatures that might otherwise disappear from areas where phytotelmata is no longer able to form naturally. Watch this space! In a years’ time, we might have a simple and elegant solution for one of our planets snowballing list of problems.

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