Scientist: Frog's decline threatens Sierra ecology | High Sierra Topix  

Scientist: Frog's decline threatens Sierra ecology

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Postby vaughnm » Fri Jun 02, 2006 8:12 pm

I've been fishing since I was 6 (that's quite a while), and I wouldn't want to see the distribution of trout dramatically reduced. But, I certainly get a kick when I see a mass of tadpoles, or three or four frogs around 10,000 ft. I've seen them in Upper Cathedral Lake, in some ponds at Island Pass and other places. Always a kick.



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Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:03 pm

George,

Thanks again for putting some science in here and thanks to Vance. As you know I am in agreement with Vance's overall conclusions that I the data overwhelmingly supports the negative impact on mylf by trout. However, some of the "exceptions" are important both for fisheries management purposes and for mylf survival. What I am interested in is Vance's statement "<10 documented sites out of 14,000 sites surveyed in SN". Perhaps I'm behind in my data (I haven't received an "update" in upwards of 5 years), but aren't there nearly 10 sites in Desolation Wilderness alone where mylf and long-introduced trout populations (ie resident for decades) coexist?

I certainly am aware of the rarity of coexistence of the two species (when the trout population has been in the lake for decades as opposed to a shorter time period). I've visited only one lake for sure in the High SN (in my definition "High" means Tower Pk and south) that had coexisting trout and mylf (confirmed by Knapp) and another that had frogs but that Knapp said had walk in population from neighboring ponds. I've also visited one lake that I'm pretty sure I saw mylf poliwogs but neither the DFG fisheries biologist covering the area nor Knapp confirmed their presence (lake has had air dropped rainbows for decades). This is out of 600 some odd lakes I've been to personally. I think the most impressive qualitative statement of the non-coexistence of mylf and fish is the age old anglers 'conventional wisdom' as to whether a lake is fishless or not. If you don't see fish or encounter a strike, you wonder if the fish are just laying low for a day. If you don't see a sign of fish life and you see poliwogs you say the lake is fishless: this has been fisherman's conventional wisdom since I was a kid (ie 40 years ago). I am still curious about the <10, though because I think something different is afoot in the N. Sierra. I've also been told that mylf carry the chytrid fungus up there but somehow don't succumb as easily. I am curious as to whether such qualitative observations are holding up with more thorough study.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Oh, get a clue guys

Postby gdurkee » Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:54 pm

Giantbrookie:

I don't know the specifics of those exceptions either. My memory and experience seem close to his general conclusions (so far) about how they've survived occasionally with fish. The picture I'm starting to form is like the Passenger Pigeon -- once they went below a critical minimum, they crashed from predation (human & other animals). I was interested in his thought that it started close to the start if F&G air drops. I didn't know that. It makes some sense.

Chytrid is still a mystery. I think I vaguely remember someone saying that Tree Frogs were carriers but never got the disease. I could be completely wrong on that one though. Regarding the Northern Sierra, Vance and colleagues have proposed three species of the yellow-legged -- a northern, central (Yosemite to about Palisade Creek) and southern (Mather Pass to southern California) population. Possible they have different reactions to Chytrid &/or survival strategies with fish. The problem, of course, is they (the central and southern herds) didn't evolve with fish. I don't know anywhere near enough to comment on the North.

It also appears that Chytrid can wipe out a lake and, two years later, the frogs can recover. This has now happened a couple of times in Yosemite and Kings (with a reintroduction). Also from lab work.

Glad you're out there making observations and remembering. It's amazing how important that was in the early days of the frog research. There were darned few records and these guys often had to get hints of research directions from people with time in the Sierra and good memories... .

*************


For the others, I should know better, but what part of this whole and very detailed discussion are you guys missing?

Stand in front of a mirror and repeat after me:

"THE SURVIVAL OF FROGS DOES NOT DEPEND ON GETTING RID OF YOUR &*^*#!!!%%$^*& PRECIOUS FISH."

Got that?

We might not totally agree on an exact number of lakes with fish in the Sierra, but (and I'm not just talking Yosemite to Sequoia Kings, but the whole Sierra) we're talking close to 10,000 lakes & waterways --- TEN THOUSAND!!!!!! -- the majority WITH YOUR %!!##$!!^%&^* PRECIOUS TROUT.

Do you think you could maybe make room in, oh, I dunno, a hundred of those lakes for frogs? Maybe even 200 in 20 years. We're talking an attempt at a whole and healthy ecosystem here. That's what National Parks and Wilderness areas are for: both by moral duty to the planet and, not incidentally, legal responsibility to the enabling legislation of the parks and of the Wilderness Act.

These little firefights are going on all over the planet and with thousands of species, habitat and ecosystems. The attempt is to preserve some small islands (at least) of what these wild places have been for tens of thousands of years. It is, always, a rearguard action, but sometimes there's small victories and advances. It would be really nice if the people who are actually out there and, at some level, appreciating these places could show a little generosity of spirit and respect for the land.

“I looked out over the Bering Sea and brought my hands folded to the breast of my parka and bowed from the waist deeply toward the north, that great strait filled with life, the ice and the water. I held the bow to the pale sulphur sky at the northern rim of the earth. I held the bow until my back ached, and my mind was emptied of its categories and designs, its plans and speculations. I bowed before the simple evidence of the moment in my life in a tangible place on the earth that was beautiful.

When I stood I thought I glimpsed my own desire. The landscape and the animals were like something found at the end of a dream. The edges of the real landscape became one with the edges of something I had dreamed. But what I had dreamed was only a pattern, some beautiful pattern of light. The continuous work of the imagination, I thought, to bring what is actual together with what is dreamed is an expression of human evolution. The conscious desire is to achieve a state, even momentarily, that like light is unbounded, nurturing, suffused with wisdom and creation, a state in which one has absorbed that very darkness which before was the perpetual sign of defeat."


Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams
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Postby AldeFarte » Sat Jun 03, 2006 12:58 am

Well George, I think "Healthy Ecosystem" is subjective. To me and the people I abuse the land with, "It is healthy now". Um ,When is a little more of a good thing too much? We have gone from a few lakes ,to a few dozen to a few hundred in twenty years. Sorry pard, But that is un acceptable to me. I think a lessoning of indescriminate air drops will cure a lot of ills in the future. If a lake can be self sustaining , then leave it alone. If it cannot keep a viable population going thru a natural spawn, then let the frog have it. Period! Only the strong survive. "Fish the foam" :)
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I guess the wrong buttons were pushed

Postby caddis » Sat Jun 03, 2006 7:32 am

10,000 lakes and 90% occupied by trout leaves 1000 lakes for frogs....not sure where the "a hundred of those lakes for frogs? Maybe even 200" figure comes from.

The point of my questions was to find out if MYLF's can survive in lakes that can't support a viable fish population. If yes, then there is enough habitat already for a "whole and healthy ecosystem here." Therefore, the main problem with the MYLF decline does not rest with the trout. This does not exclude them as an important factor in MYLF numbers being reduced, but as I said, reducing numbers in itself is not a cause for threatening extintion.


It's my contention that there is no need to remove fish from waters where fish can reproduce. Let the other lakes "die-off" (end restocking in lakes that can support a MYLF but not a trout) there is plenty of habitat and the solution to the MYLF should be sought elsewhere.
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Postby SSSdave » Sat Jun 03, 2006 6:01 pm

gdurkee, thanks for forwarding the response from the biologist. Some of those responding might go back and read my posts from the first page of this thread. I had stated that I saw a lot of high alpine lakes with frogs, tadpoles, and fish. But after reading the link gdurkee provided, it was obvious many of those were likely Pacific tree frogs and tadpoles. So those talking about seeing tadpoles in lakes might not be seeing the yellow-leggers.

I don't think there is anywhere close to trout in 90% the 10,000 or so lakes and ponds. Sometimes the number of lakes in the Sierra is given as 8,000 as there it depends on what is considered a lake. Many of the small shallow ponds dry up during summer. Whether 8,000 or 10,000 is used, it is obvious that number is considering the many small ponds.

My old copy of Ralph Cutter's "Sierra Trout Guide" lists less than 1750 lakes with fish. That includes all the named lakes plus a modest number of unnamed lakes in named basins that are just given numbers. There are of course far more unnamed lakes and ponds than named ones. In the Southern Sierra, there are a modest number of large unnamed lakes. Doubt if that is more than a hundred or two. There are many more medium sized lakes that might make for another few hundred. Generally we can say the majority of large and medium sized waters are named. After that are enormous numbers of small lakes and really small ponds. Most are too shallow for fish due to winter kill. In some alpine areas covered by glacially smoothed granite, such small granite pocket lakes are abundant. Even in some forest elevation areas that have been heavily glaciated there are large numbers of such small waters. A good example is the Letora Lake region of Emigrant Basin.

Given the number of lakes in Cutter's book then adding the large, medium, and small lakes and ponds with adequate depth that are unnamed lakes, I'd be surprised if there were even 3,000 lakes and ponds with fish and certainly less than 4,000.

Also since some of you in these later posts are voting, I'd like to vote too. I vote for stunted eastern brook. Their skin even looks like frogs so they must be eating frogs to look like that haha. And they certainly like to squirm around in lake shallows. Yeah remove the stunts! ...David
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Postby SSSdave » Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:07 pm

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Over the holiday while on the trail above Lower Lamarck Lake, took the above pic of what looks to me to be a yellow-legged frog pollywog in an advanced metamorphosizing stage. The frogs I see in the high country usually become frogs late in September. One can see the legs on the side, spots along the three or so inch long body. Note the lodgepole pine needle nearby in the water. Sorry for the less than clear image but they didn't like me getting near them and we were in a hurry to reach our car down at North Lake. This pond is at about 10.7k on the trail a short ways beyond the lake outlet where it routes in a ravine before reaching the inlet creek to the lake. The ravine has considerable talus which covers the bottom of this quite shallow rocky pond. A pond that is never very deep as it is not part of a drainage system but rather likely is simply where the bedrock below the talus forms a small bowl that collects a shallow amount of water. Such ponds are abundant in the higher altitudes and where I often see tadpoles.

My reason for the post is in a previous post in this thread there was some research that stated yellow-legged frogs can only overwinter in deeper ponds or lakes so that all these shallow ponds probably held tree frogs or other species. If that were true then we need to be concerned. If not then there are thousands of small ponds and streams where the frogs can live while fish cannot. Something I had doubts about and seeing these pollywogs in this and other ponds now has me doubting this whole frog research once again as misleading with an agenda. Now I may be incorrect with that suspicion but someone is going to have to address this shallow pond issue with something more solid. In the mean time I'm going to be taking more pics like this when I'm out this month. ...David
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Tadpole photo

Postby gdurkee » Mon Oct 09, 2006 1:20 pm

Dave:

I'm pretty sure that's a Pacific Treefrog. The eyes are on the side of the head vs. the mountain yellow legged which are more to the top
http://www.californiaherps.com/frogs/images/

The treefrog tadpoles develop to frogs in one summer season (I think...). The Mt. Yellow-legged take 2 or 3 seasons. They are also usually much larger and darker (almost black).

Also, if there's tadpoles around, there's almost always adults on the lake margins if it's yellow-leggeds. Tree frogs disperse almost immediately, though you often see them hippity hopping along the lake shore when they're becoming adults at the same time. They don't hang out there though. I don't think I've ever seen a pond with MYL tadpoles and no adults (though it probably happens).

George
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Postby huts » Mon Nov 06, 2006 10:28 am

George, I was paying attention to your argument until you started cussing at me. ("your #$@*&%^$ trout").
My argument is with the way this process was carried out. I filled out angler survey cards for a few years before I knew why this information was wanted. Questions to fish and game are frequently ignored or I recieve a response that is vague and/or patronizing("the issue is complicated" ="you do not have the intelligence to understand"). Sometimes it is deceitful. Sometimes I am treated with a level of respect that is only slightly better than cussing at someone who does not agree with you. (I am speaking of other issues along with the frog)
No one has ever asked for my input in the decision or kept me "in the loop" in spite of my obvious interest. It is not posssible for me trust the "powers that be" when it is clear that they feel the need to keep people out of the process.
The rest of my response to George will not be a part of this or any other post as I do not wish to participate in the same manner he has.
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Postby ERIC » Wed Nov 08, 2006 9:49 pm

Let's not let this great 'discussion' get out of control, people. :computer:

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Postby rlown » Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:20 pm

Just got back from North of Tuolumne Meadows at Virginia and Upper Mattie lakes this late Sept. We checked in for our wilderness permit and we were off. We even took two new people who've never backpacked or caught a huge Brookie before. These lakes are off trail so you're on your own out there. These lakes held 14" - 24" Brook trout. when we got to Upper Mattie on the second day, we found gill nets. There was a phone number on them to call (209) 379-1995. It was fishless after being excellent for 20 years.

The next day we climbed over the ridge to Virginia Lk, thinking there was NO way they'd do that to such a large lake with the really big brookies. (we still didnt know what was going on at the time)

We descended into V only to find the gillnets (and several Dipper birds entangled close to shore). So, it was a blown trip, but you could still catch all the 8" trout you wanted in glen aulin. kinda disgusting.

I guess my point is it's great that we want to save the frog. There is habitat near these lakes that would have worked to raise populations (as those were gillnetted as well), but why rape the nice lakes with the big fish. Take all the silly lakes with thousands of 8" trout.

I understand the science and intent, but now i'm gonna need to buy a frog gigg'n stamp to visit my favorite lake ever again, and that wont be half as fun as the fish. I vote Trout (guys, btw, we dont get a vote as the MYLF will go on the endangered list)

Regards,

Russ
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Postby AldeFarte » Thu Oct 25, 2007 9:59 pm

:( rlwon, I can totally sympathize with your blown trip, after no doubt a long haul and much anticipation for a place you know has large fish. I had a similiar occurance , but it was not about the lovely mylf. It involved gill nets,tho. I have done plenty of gill netting for salmon and you can believe me when I say they are indescriminate. It's called bycatch. If there is bycatch with 4 inch web, what do you think think gets entangled in the size web they use for 12 to 16 inch trout? But hey! It's ok. After all, it's for the "better" good. People on the mylf bandwagon are true believers and they can rarely be turned from the dark side. Or else they have a financial investment. After all, they don't give many grants for studying the pacific tree frog. Or the western jack rabbit, or the blue belly lizard. All common and thriving critters. We can only hope that someone with sanity will persuade the powers in charge of a better way to help the mylf than gill netting trout! Life has a tenacity, but me thinks the frog cannot withstand the virus. I know it can survive the trout. jls
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