website is about the frogs and other amphibians that occur in one
coffee estate in Coorg, India. Properly managed, coffee estates
can be very valuable habitat for some of the most endangered animals on
Earth. More usually they are wastelands supporting just a tiny
proportion of the species that lived there before. As demand for
coffee increases more and more natural habitat is converted to
farmland. But coffee and frogs can live and grow happily together if
the right conditions are created. If you insist on coffee from a farm
fit for frogs you won't have much choice. Coffee producers won't care
about frogs unless you do first.
Background: The Western Ghats are a chain of mountains running from Bombay to the southern tip of India. They are home to some of the most diverse frog communities on Earth. Over 90% of the species there are found nowhere else, and there is evidence that individual hilltops harbour unique species. We chose a coffee estate bordering Nagarhole National Park for this project because we wanted to sample both undisturbed and agricultural areas. Using this methodology we were able to estimate amphibian diversity, density and biomass in a wide range of habitats. The result was one of the most detailed studies of a single amphibian community ever carried out in Asia.
The Problem: It is likely that most frogs of the Western Ghats remain unknown to science. The taxonomy of amphibians in India is a neglected subject and as a result identifying species is a difficult task. The forests of the Western Ghats have been largely cleared, leaving isolated fragments of habitat and it seems inevitable that highly localised species will become extinct without ever being discovered. At present surveys of amphibians communities are rarely carried out, and often suffer from taxonomic uncertainities and methodological flaws which make comparisons of quantititve data between communities impossible.
Our Solution: Develop methods for surveying large and complex amphibian populations in an easily repeatable manner. Make amphibians easy to identify by producing guides to the frogs of the area that include pictures of animals at all stages in life, together with samples of their advertisement calls. Use these media to publicise the fact that amphibians in the area are of world-wide importance.
20th Century amphibian surveyors have relied largely on large area transects to document populations. We find these methods very ineffective because animals leave the area before they can be recorded, a large number are simply overlooked and the microhabitat is difficult to describe accurately. Quite simply it is impossible to search large areas properly. Instead we developed a method which utilises a cubic meter volume from which frogs are unable to escape, easy to find and microhabitat type can be characterised easily. This method allows large hetereogenous habitats to be sampled without bias and ensures that amphibians are not overlooked. The equipment needed is both simple and inexpensive (less than US$2).
Images and text © Daniel Bennett and Katie Hampson 2000
Sounds © British Library of Wildlife Sounds 1998