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False spring: Climate change may erode frogs’ ability to withstand salt pollution


Wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) tadpole. Image Credit: Jessica Hua.

Driven by climate change, spring in the northeastern United States is now earlier and more variable in temperature than it used to be, a shift that has rippled through ecosystems. Among the most severely affected are spring-breeding amphibians such as wood frogs, who may be lured out of the mud to mate too early.

When winter comes rushing back in, adult wood frogs will likely survive the chill — but their newly laid eggs may be at risk. But the impact doesn’t end there, according to new research by Binghamton University’s Department of Biological Sciences .

Later broods of hatchlings whose parents endure freezing temperatures associated with an additional winter storm are larger but less resilient to the effects of road salt, a common wetland pollutant, according to doctoral candidate Nicholas Buss , Assistant Research Professor Lindsey Swierk and Associate Professor Jessica Hua in “Amphibian breeding phenology influences offspring size and response to a common wetland contaminant,” published recently in Frontiers in Zoology.

The research focuses on several populations of wood frogs located about a 4½ hour drive southwest from Binghamton, which typically enter breeding season anytime between mid-March and mid-April. […]

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