United States
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 Environmental       Protecting WellamiS JOT
 Protection Agency
        Wetlands are important elements of a watershed because they serve as the
 vital link between land and water resources. Wetlands play an integral role in the
 ecology of a watershed.  Their shallow waters, nutrients, and primary
 productivity are ideal for organisms that form the base of the food web upon
 which many species of wildlife depend.  Wetland habitat provides the necessary
 food, water and shelter for mammals and migrating birds.  Other animals, such
 as amphibians and reptiles, collectively known as herpetofauna, or "herps,"
 depend on wetlands for all or part of their life cycle, meaning that their survival
 is directly linked to the presence and condition  of wetlands.
 Amphibians and Reptiles
 Depend on Wetlands
       Wetlands serve as critical habitat for
       many species of amphibians and
 reptiles. Most amphibians lay gelatinous eggs
 under water, while others, like certain
 salamanders, lay their eggs on moist land. After
 the eggs hatch, the baby amphibians enter an
 aquatic larval stage, which can last from several
 days to many months.  Once the aquatic stage is
 completed, the amphibians leave the water and
 enter the terrestrial adult stage of life.  Wetlands
 serve as breeding sites, as a habitat for larval
 development and as a primary food source for
 adults. Insects, spiders, snails, worms and
 small fish are all prey for certain amphibians.
 For many reptiles,
 wetlands also serve
 as primary habitat,
 supplying them with
 an ample source of
 food and habitat for
 breeding and
 nursing.  Specially
 adapted reptiles that
 are able swimmers
 are likely to be
 found in wetlands.
 Some of these
 include the common
 snapping turtle,
 spotted  turtle,
 northern water
 snake, cottonmouth
 snake, diamondback
 water snake and
 garter snakes.
                          Amphibians and reptiles depend upon a variety
                          of wetland types. These may include marshes,
                          swamps, bogs and fens (and their associated
                          subclasses). Some wetlands are only wet a
                          portion of the year and are considered
                          "ephemeral" wetlands. These wetlands provide
                          important habitat and breeding grounds (see
                          side bar).

                          There are often strong ecological connections
                          among wetlands in a landscape. Although some
                          may be permanent and others ephemeral,
                          amphibian populations can depend on multiple
                          wetlands within a given area.  To protect these
                          species over the long term, the variety and
                          density of suitable habitat sites within the
                          landscape must be preserved, along with
                          terrestrial corridors that connect the wetlands.
Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans) - When disturbed, garter snakes will release
an unpleasant smelling musk from glands located at the base of their tail.
Why are
Vernal pools, one
type of ephemeral
wetland, are of
critical importance
to amphibian
populations.  As
small, often
isolated wetlands,
vernal pools are
only wet for a
portion of the
year. Periodic
drying creates a
environment for
amphibians,  many
of which have
adapted rapid egg
and larval stages
as a race against
the  dry season.
The absence of fish
predators in
vernal pools

 Threats  to  Herps  and  Wetlands
The American toad (Bufo americanus) is one of the most commonly heard
frog or toad species in the United States. The male toad's call is a long,
uninterrupted 15-20 second trill that can be heard over a long distance.

Wetland Habitat Loss
Over 220 million acres of wetlands are thought to have existed in the lower 48 states prior to 1700.
Since then, extensive losses have occurred, and over half of our original wetlands have been drained
and converted to other uses.  Though the rate of loss has decreased in recent decades, wetlands and
other aquatic resources are still threatened by activities such as ditching, draining, dredging and
stream channelization;  deposition of fill material for commercial and residential development,
dikes, levees and dams; crop  production, logging and mining. Since many amphibian species need
both aquatic and terrestrial habitat, it is very important to preserve wetlands and  a buffer strip of
adequate upland habitat.
                                                                 In order to maintain healthy amphibian and
                                                                 reptile populations, wetland habitat must be
                                                                 protected. A watershed contains multiple
                                                                 habitats, all  of which are affected by changes
                                                                 in hydrology, land use and water quality.
                                                                 Since no habitat is isolated from its
                                                                 surroundings, protection ofherps must take
                                                                 place at both the large-scale watershed level
                                                                 and at the smaller scale of individual

                                                                 Population declines and disappearances of
                                                                 amphibians and reptiles leading to widespread
                                                                 scientific and public concern have been well
                                                                 documented. The causes for their decline,
                                                                 while not fully understood, appear to be
                                                                 complex and numerous.
                                                                     47 of the 60
                                                                    species found
                                                                        in Illinois
                                                                        rely upon
  Why are
  amphibians so

  Some amphibians
  breathe through their
  porous skin, which
  makes them extremely
  vulnerable to pollution
  in the soil, air, and
  water. You can think of
  amphibians as sponges
  that soak up their
  environment. This is
  why you shouldn't try to
  catch frogs if you have
  insect repellent on-the
  toxic repellent will seep
  into their skin and harm
Chemical Pollution
Due to their amphibious lifestyles, herpetofauna are very sensitive to changes in the water and
surrounding land.  Many synthetic organic compounds and metals adversely affect amphibians and
reptiles.  Sublethal effects of chemical pollutants can impair a herp's ability to swim, catch food and
reproduce successfully.  Amphibians are particularly sensitive to chemical contaminants owing to
their permeable eggs and skin. A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed that
"organophosphorus pesticides from agricultural areas, which are transported to the Sierra Nevada on
prevailing summer winds, may be affecting populations of amphibians that  breed in mountain ponds
and streams."  The scientists estimate that
damage could be even worse for  those species
more closely associated with water.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) have
been of great concern in the amphibian and
reptile community.  Studies have shown that
chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls  (PCBs)
build up in turtle eggs, reduce eggshell
thickness and cause reproductive failure.  Other
studies have shown reduced male organ size
among reptiles, which results in difficult  sex
recognition and the subsequent lack of
reproduction. Both amphibians and reptiles are
very susceptible to the dangers of EDCs.
Marbled Salamander (Abystoma opacum) -
Courtship begins when the male nudges the
female with his snout.

Nutrient Loading
The indirect effects of excess nutrients can be
very detrimental to amphibians. Nutrients
such as nitrogen and phosphorous can cause
dominance of algae, which is not conducive to
laying eggs. Excess nutrients can also reduce
the amount of oxygen available in the water for
amphibian tadpoles and alter the composition
and numbers of the invertebrate communities
that are food for the juveniles. In Texas, playa
wetlands receiving nutrient-laden feedlot
effluent were devoid of amphibians found in
natural wetlands. In this case, experiments
indicated that the nutrient concentrated effluent
had to be reduced to less than 3% of its
original strength in order to minimize adverse
  Some turtles, such as the
  diamondback terrapin, are
  endangered owing to commercial
  harvesting, stemming primarily from
  the food industry.
  The pet trade also endangers many
  reptiles, such as the box turtle.
Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) - Its call is a
resonant, flutelike trill similiar to the call of the
red-bellied woodpecker. Depending upon its
environment, this treefrog can range in color from
bright green to gray.  They breed in permanent to
semi-permanent wetlands.
 On the whole, it is difficult to document
 reptile population trends.  Many species
 have secretive natures,  which, when
 combined with large home ranges, low
 population densities and a rarity of
 congregational behavior, may result in a
 severe population decline without being
 noticed by people.
                                          American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) - Once hunted intensively for their
                                          hides, today poaching and the loss of habitat to human development are the
                                          greatest threats faced  by American crocodiles.
              Additional Threats
Global  climate change may threaten aquatic and
semiaquatic life by reducing wetland acreage due to
frequency and severity of storms and sea level rise.
Latitudinal shifts  in temperature and precipitation
patterns also threaten herps.

Ozone depletion  causes an increase in the amount of
Ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth's surface and
waters.  Research  has shown that UV-B radiation has
adverse effects on some amphibians. The Montreal
Protocol has reduced emissions of ozone-depleting

Invasive species pose a constant threat to native herps.
Invasive plants and animals can alter the ecological
community that is  relied upon by native reptiles and
amphibians. Invasive herpetofauna can also directly
damage native populations.  In many parts of the U.S.,
invading bullfrogs are preying on and often eliminating
other amphibians, as well as impacting some reptiles and

Disease and Parasites significantly contribute  to
declining amphibian and reptile populations. To help
prevent  the spread of disease and parasites,  follow
careful washing procedures when traveling between

Conservation  Efforts  for  Amphibians  and  Reptiles
Conservation efforts for amphibians and reptiles come in many different
forms.  Like other wildlife conservation efforts, the first step is to identify
and monitor existing populations.  The USGS has a volunteer monitoring
program where participants learn to identify local frog calls and submit
observational data at different times of the year.

Fortunately, laws are being passed in some States to protect herpetofauna.
New Jersey adopted special protections for vernal pools to ensure
sufficient regulatory review.  California enforces laws to prevent people
from taking native reptiles and amphibians without a license,  except
common herp species.  The laws also forbid the sale of herpetofauna for
human consumption. Various bird and wetland initiatives have positive
impacts on herps as well.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a habitat-
oriented program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlfe Service, has been
particularly helpful  to amphibians and reptiles,  as waterfowl and herpeto-
fauna often share the same habitat. The conservation programs within
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Bill  program also help to
preserve or restore habitat for herpetofauna.
The chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia) is found
in the southeastern United States from southeast
Virginia to east Texas. Their preferred habitat
includes quiet bodies of water such as ponds,
swamps, and marshes. Although an aquatic
species, it readily wanders and is often found out
of water. They are mainly carnivorous, and their
diet includes tadpoles and crayfish.
Tfow Czti  Ycm Tfclp?
You can help to save amphibian and reptile diversity in many different
ways. On a larger scale, working to protect your watershed is the first
step to ensuring clean water and healthy habitat for herps.  You should:

   Prevent soil erosion by seeding for grass or planting shrubs;

   Avoid dumping chemicals down drains;

   Maintain vegetative buffer strips between your land and any surface
    waterbody; and

   Avoid releasing or transporting exotic plant or animal species into
    the environment.

Protecting surface water and wetlands is important to promoting herp
diversity.  Identfying,  monitoring and restoring local wetlands are great
ways to educate yourself and your  community about the  important
functions and values of wetlands.  Supporting public and private
organizations involved in habitat protection is another way to help.
Further information can be found at http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/
 PARC - Partners in Amphibian and
 Reptile Conservation
 Partners in Amphibian and Reptile
 Conservation (PARC) is the largest
 herpetological conservation partnership in the
 nation. They are a habitat-focused partnership
 involving State agencies, Federal agencies, the
 private sector, conservation organizations, and
 the academic community.  The partnership is
 dedicated to
 protecting endangered
 reptile and amphibian
 species and keeping
 common native
 species common.
 Their website
 contains educational
 materials on the
 conservation  of amphibians and reptiles along
 with an extensive list of weblinks.
                                                                                                Office of Water
  On the Internet
   Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation	www.parcplace.org

   U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands

   U.S. Geological Society	www.usgs.gov/amphibians

   U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service	www.wetlands.fws.gov

   USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service	www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp