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Acute and chronic effects of acidic pH on four subtropical frog species

Charon Farquharson
Victor Wepener
Nico J. Smit


Acidic precipitation is implicated as a possible cause of global amphibian decline. Even protected areas such as Kruger National Park receive acid rain which may lead to possible negative effects on the park’s natural amphibian populations. We conducted acute (LC50) and chronic acid tolerance bioassays on embryos and tadpoles of four frog species found in the park, i.e., Chiromantis xerampelina (Southern Foam Nest Frog), Pyxicephalus edulis (African Bullfrog), Amietophrynus maculatus (Flat-backed Toad) and Hildebrandtia ornata (Ornate Frog), using survival, deformities and growth as endpoints. Chronic exposure pH-values were selected based on the results of the acute assays. Trimmed Spearman-Karber LC50s were 4.07, 4.55, 3.75 and 3.747 for C. xerampelina, P. edulis, A. maculatus and H. ornata, respectively, and were all below the pHs in the natural ponds of the KNP. For chronic exposures tadpole size decreased and tadpole deformities increased with decreasing pH. Metamorphosis of tadpoles was also delayed by increasing acidity. In conclusion, the current buffering capacity of water bodies, which serve as habitat for amphibians, negates the effects of decreasing pH from acid precipitation.

Keywords: low pH, acid precipitation, amphibians, mortality, developmental deformities, delayed metamorphosis, Kruger National Park

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738