Hopping to it in the New England Tablelands
Surveying frog species on the New England Tablelands to help understand how they are faring.
You are standing by a flowing river and you can hear thousands of calling frogs. When you look around you might see species such as Booroolong frogs (Litoria booroolongensis) all around - sitting out on rocks and calling. Perhaps you visit that same river ten years later and there is less calling. Less frogs hopping around. You might then visit again ten years after that and there are even less, and then, maybe in fifty years when you are old and grey, there is only silence.
The New England Tablelands of northern NSW, Australia, is home to a wide variety of frog species. We know this because there were comprehensive surveys carried out in the area about 50 years ago. But what is it like now? That is what I am trying to discover! I am retracing the steps of a team of biologists who conducted surveys in the 1970’s, to discover what species are still present in the New England Tablelands today.
I will use this information to model the current distribution for the remaining species. Why only ‘remaining species’? Well so far, I have noticed one such call that is missing from the cacophony, one that was very common fifty years ago. The Booroolong frog (Litoria booroolongensis). That is only one example from this region, but frogs worldwide are facing declines. They are threatened by the loss and degradation of their habitat through human development and pollution, invasive species and even a nasty little fungus called the amphibian chytrid fungus. Their loss is critically important because the presence of frogs is closely linked with ecosystem health.
The New England Tablelands is unique in that it has such an extensive historical record for frog presence in the region. My project will use this information to understand the changes in distribution over time and can be used to predict likelihood of occurrence for each species at other sites on the Tablelands. This is especially important for the threatened species in the area, not only so we can identify potential habitats to survey for the species, but so we can identify habitat characteristics critical for their survival and encourage frogs to stick around a little longer.
PhD candidate, University of New England & AMRI