Scientists study Picayune Strand Cuban Tree Frogs to measure restoration

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Cuban Tree Frog. (Credit: WINK News)
Cuban Tree Frog. (Credit: WINK News)

Scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University are studying Cuban Tree Frogs to measure how restoration in the Picayune Strand State Forest is coming along.

If you do an online search for the word, “Picayune,” two definitions will populate on your screen.

One: a small coin. The other: worthless.

But for people like FGCU’s Phoebe Clark and Dr. Win Everham, they believe the opposite of worthless is true.

“I’m here looking at the Picayune restoration,” Clark said.

A restoration at Picayune Strand State Park they said is worthwhile. At one point, developers hoped to build on the island. Now, not anymore.

“So then somebody in the state got the idea, ‘Well, why don’t we buy all that land back and try and restore it,'” Clark said. “Try to restore it; make it a more natural area?'”

That is where FGCU, with the help of the South Florida Water Management District, come in.

Clark said the park wants restoration of its water. She is looking at frogs because they are sensitive to different environmental factors, such as the restoration project.

“We use PVC pipes to serve as refugia,” Clark said. “It’s basically a little hiding space that stays moist.”

The frogs show how diverse its population is in the area.

“More diversity means more stability,” Dr. Everham said. “More resilience.”

In turn, because frogs depend on water. The population indicates how water restoration is progressing. The goal is for Picayune’s landscape to retain that water to filter out nutrients before reaching the Everglades or on the coast.

“Which happens to cause algal blooms,” Dr. Everham said.

Here in Southwest Florida, something as small as a tree frog might help fight the water crisis.

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