A frog that moves to the mountaintop

ranita sanantonioThe frog commonly known as the Iberian tree frog (Hyla molleri previously Hyla arborea) is one of our most attractive species due to their striking colour (ranging from bright green to earth tones and sometimes blue), toes which end in suckers, the expression in their eyes and the formidable vocal sac of the males which expands to produce the mating call.

This species is associated with areas abundant in vegetation and temperatures that are not too cold, and for this reason it is rare in high mountain areas. In the Guadarrama Mountains it was abundant at the foot of the mountains for decades, but due to rampant urban development it has become a rare species. In the 80's the Iberian tree frog was only usually present in the Peñalara Massif in an area known as Humedal of the Operante, at an altitude of about 1900 metres. However, in the 90s the first specimens timidly ventured to colonize some ponds in the area of ​​Los Llanos of Peñalara. Since then, the species has colonized almost the entire massif, and currently it is abundant, for example, in the Laguna Chica. Paradoxically, it is a species normally found in the lowest areas which has found refuge in the highest areas.

aumento hylaIncrease the total abundance of larvae (circles) and the number of ponds (bars) in the presence of the Iberian tree frog in the Peñalara Massif in recent years.

The change in distribution has certainly had an effect on the dynamics of the entire ecosystem, especially in the structure of amphibian communities. Competition with other amphibian species more typical of upland areas can be fierce, especially for the little food the larvae can find in the mountain ponds. It is difficult to predict how this will end, but it is not unreasonable to imagine a future scenario where we have a growing abundance of a few species while many others disappear, that is to say, a decline in species richness and environmental quality.

atardecer chicaWe love to hear the deafening chorus of Hyla molleri in the Laguna Chica of Peñalara and to see them in the dark expanding their vocal sacs or magically floating on the water’s surface. At the same time we wonder, among other things, whether the females of the few Common midwife toads that have established in this lake will be able to hear the calls of males and successfully mate in the middle of the deafening hustle and bustle.

We should not be mere spectators of climate change. It is the responsibility of all to ask ourselves how our habits can be changed to reduce global warming and take measures to prevent and reduce its effects.

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