Traffic, and its associated by-products, have been blamed for many things: lack of productivity, diminished quality of life, stress levels and the fouling of the air we breathe.
However, a recent report out of Australia cites traffic for yet another offense: ruining the sex lives of frogs.
Apparently, male frogs court their potential mates with a hearty croak. The strength of a frog's croak gives his potential mates an indication of his vigor and worthiness as a companion. So, increased traffic noise is making it harder for the female frogs to hear the courting croak.
As a result of the audio interference, frog populations are down. The Australian researcher found that low-pitched croakers are at a disadvantage because they are directly competing with the sound of traffic and air conditioners.
The southern brown tree frog has adapted, raising its pitch to increase the croak coverage area.
A University of Sheffield ecologist said the research is plausible and could be evidence that urban habitats are affecting the behavior of animals. The ecologist cited studies that some birds have changed to night singing because their habitats had become too noisy during the day.
Perhaps traffic planners should consider noise walls for frogs. Patterned after the ones built to protect human neighborhoods from the sound of traffic, noise walls for frogs could be built much lower to the ground. And instead of the images of animals and plants used on the human versions, the frog noise walls could have little images of humans on them.
Somewhere on a pond, Kermit would be smiling.
David Fierro is a transportation public relations consultant. He is a former newspaper and magazine editor and worked for both the Florida and Virginia departments of transportation.