When were building our house and knew we would have earthmoving equipment out to dig the basement, we decided that we would also put in a pond beside the house. True to the permaculture principle of everything serving several functions, the pond was to supply all of the water for irrigation and (once filtered and treated) our household use, moderate the air temperature near the house, offer fire protection, give us a nice view, and provide some food in the form of fish. To the latter end, we stocked the pond.
Normally, one would stock a pond with a few varieties of fish, one of which would be a predator species, like bass, to keep the others from overpopulating the pond. Bass eat tadpoles, however, and this conflicted with my wife Cyndi’s most important objective for the pond: that it be a frog sanctuary. So we we left out the bass and put in red-eared shell crackers and hybrid bluegill, both fairly slow-reproducing fish that would leave the tadpoles alone.
Years later, as I feared, we’ve not fished the pond heavily enough to act as the predator species ourselves, and so now we have a pond populated by a great number of very small, hardly-worth-catching panfish. What we also have in abundance, however, are frogs. As the weather has warmed, every night we hear an amazing symphony of frogs with myriad voices. We hear the “click-click-click,” the screeching, the almost deafening relay of “whannup-whannup” ricocheting around the edges of the pond, and the unceremonious “boink” and “chirp.”
It is not just my wife’s enthusiastic love of frogs that makes me glad to hear their singing, nor my delight in their ability to catch mosquitoes and other insects, nor my own sensual pleasure in their nightly serenade. I rejoice in the frogs not only for what they are or what they do, but also for what they represent. Though my understanding of this is limited, I have read that frogs are one of the “canary in the coal mine” indicator species, whose health and numbers indicate the overall vitality of an ecosystem. They are especially sensitive to chemical runoff and other toxins in the watershed, and so a decline of frogs is an early warning sign that a biological system is out of balance. And it is apparently well-documented that frogs are in decline the world over.
If environmental pressures increase and the overall frog population continues to plummet, who knows how long our own pond’s frogs will continue to thrive. But come what may, the frogs reminds me of an important truth: whatever you love, whatever you think adds something good and beautiful to the world, you strive to protect and preserve for as long as you possibly can, regardless of the ultimate outcome. But for their sake and ours, I hope we’ll be hearing a chorus of bullfrogs for years and years to come.