Instructor shines spotlight on endangered African amphibians in new field guide - 2010-07-14
ENDANGERED AFRICAN AMPHIBIANS GIVEN SPOTLIGHT IN NEW FIELD GUIDE
Book by Paul Smith’s instructor could yield blueprints for protecting rare species
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The Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya are home to one of the world’s most diverse – and fragile – amphibian habitats. But even as scientists race to protect the species there from decline, they face a basic obstacle: Many species are largely unknown.
Now, Paul Smith’s College instructor Elizabeth Harper has co-authored a book cataloguing all of those known species, in order to give others a baseline reference they can use in developing conservation efforts.
The work, “Field Guide to the Amphibians of the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya” (Camerapix Publishers International), was eight years in the making and includes details on more than 100 species. Dozens in the book were identified for the first time in the past decade. Dr. David Patrick, executive director of the Center for Adirondack Biodiversity at Paul Smith’s College, is among the collaborators on the 320-page volume.
The land area covered by the book – about 2,000 square miles, a region roughly the same size as Delaware – “is the only place in the world where some of these species are found,” Harper said. But as the region’s forest cover is lost to agriculture, the amphibians that live there are increasingly threatened. Harper is hoping her guide can be used to develop plans to protect the places where endangered species are found.
“Protecting forest cover in this region is not only essential to rare amphibians, but is also crucial in protecting water quality, reducing soil erosion and maintaining a unique ecosystem that attracts tourists,” Harper said. “All of these assets benefit the local people.”
Harper spent three months in the field on the project, and many of the book’s photos of frogs and toads were taken by her. In addition to brief descriptions of the call and appearance of each species, the book includes information about the habitat, rarity and breeding characteristics of each.
The volume also includes a complete Swahili translation, making the information accessible to African students, researchers and nature guides.
Harper, who began her research on a prestigious fellowship from the Watson Foundation after graduating from Middlebury College in 2001, was also supported by grants from Conservation International, National Geographic and other organizations.
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