Threatened frogs palmed off as forests disappear

June 3, 2013

Oil palm plantations in Malaysia are causing threatened forest frogs to disappear, paving the way for common species to move in on their turf, scientists have revealed.

The study, carried out by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) describes how forests converted to palm oil plantations are causing threatened dwelling frogs to vanish, resulting in an overall loss of habitat that is important for the conservation of threatened in the region.

Scientists travelled to where they spent two years studying communities of frog in four and two areas of adjacent forest. The paper is published in the journal Conservation Biology.

Aisyah Faruk, PhD student at ZSL's Institute of Zoology says: "The impact we observed is different from that observed previously for mammals and birds. Instead of reducing the number of species, oil palm affects amphibian communities by replacing habitat suitable for threatened species with habitat used by that are not important for conservation. This more subtle effect is still equally devastating for the conservation of biodiversity in Malaysia."

Amphibians are the most threatened in the world, with over 40% at risk of extinction. The peat swamp frog (Limnonectes malesianus) is just one of the declining species threatened due to deforestation. It inhabits shallow, gentle streams, swampy areas, and very flat forests, laying eggs in sandy streambeds. Scientists only found this species in forest areas, and if palm oil plantations continue to take over, the peat swamp frog, along with its forest home, could be a thing of the past.

ZSL's Dr. Trent Garner, a co-author on the paper, says: "Existing practices in managing oil palm are not accommodating the highly threatened forest frog species in Malaysia which urgently need saving."

The planting of oil palm plantations leads to the loss of natural forests and peat lands and plays havoc with ecosystems and biodiversity. ZSL, together with collaborators from Queen Mary University of London, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and University of Malaya, continues to work closely with Malaysian palm oil producers in determining if simple modifications to agricultural practices may bring some of the forest species back into areas planted with oil palm and allow them to survive and reproduce in plantations.

Explore further: Biofuels and biodiversity don't mix, ecologists warn

Related Stories

Biofuels and biodiversity don't mix, ecologists warn

July 9, 2008

Rising demand for palm oil will decimate biodiversity unless producers and politicians can work together to preserve as much remaining natural forest as possible, ecologists have warned. A new study of the potential ecological ...

Rare bat found in oil palm plantation's oasis

November 8, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The discovery of a rare bat species in a tiny fragment of rainforest surrounded by an oil palm plantation has demonstrated that even small areas of forest are worth saving.

Carbon emissions from peat-swamp forest clearing quantified

March 8, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Peat-swamp forests in Southeast Asia are being cleared to make way for food production and for oil-palm plantations for biofuel, but now a new study has quantified the resultant carbon emissions for the first ...

Recommended for you

Secrets of a heat-loving microbe unlocked

September 4, 2015

Scientists studying how a heat-loving microbe transfers its DNA from one generation to the next say it could further our understanding of an extraordinary superbug.

Plants also suffer from stress

September 4, 2015

High salt in soil dramatically stresses plant biology and reduces the growth and yield of crops. Now researchers have found specific proteins that allow plants to grow better under salt stress, and may help breed future generations ...

Ancient walnut forests linked to languages, trade routes

September 4, 2015

If Persian walnut trees could talk, they might tell of the numerous traders who moved along the Silk Roads' thousands of miles over thousands of years, carrying among their valuable merchandise the seeds that would turn into ...

Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism'

September 3, 2015

Rodents huddle together when it is cold, they separate when it is warm, and at moderate temperatures they cycle between the warm center and the cold edges of the group. In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.