Experts highlight the unique frogs of the Australasia region and summarise the challenges facing their conservation.

Book Cover
Status of Conservation and Decline of Amphibians: Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands. Photographer: CSIRO (Main frog photo: Stephen Mahony) © CSIRO (Main frog photo: Stephen Mahony) Image: CSIRO

There are almost 7000 frog species known, and together with other amphibians, they make up one of the most threatened groups of animals on earth. A new book summarises the frogs of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific- three geographically close regions with very different frog faunas- and the conservation challenges facing them. By bringing together current information, it’s hoped that the book will inspire much-needed research on frogs and their conservation, and be a useful tool for those working on ensuring the conservation of frogs in the region.

Frogs are amongst the first animals to respond to environmental change. Their permeable skin make them particularly sensitive to weather, pollution and disease, and their biphasic lifestyle (with an aquatic larval stage and terrestrial adult stage) exposes them to threats on both land and in water. They’re often considered ‘canaries in the coalmine’- a warning of the state of the environment, making their current plight of great concern.

A new book, Status of Conservation and Decline of Amphibians: Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands, has just been published. It brings together a diverse team of 29 frog researchers to summarise the current state of knowledge of the frogs of Australia, New Zealand and the oceanic islands of the Pacific, and is the latest in the ongoing Amphibian Biology series.

Although geographically proximate, the frog fauns of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific differ dramatically, along with their conservation status, threats, research needs and conservation priorities. Australia has a relatively well-known frog fauna, but, surprisingly, much is still unknown. There are 240 native species known from Australia, but in the past decade alone, 21 new species have been discovered- the age of discovery is far from over. The frog fauna of the Pacific is comparatively much less well-known, with just over 30 known species, but new species are found on almost every expedition. New Zealand’s present-day native frog fauna consists of only four species belonging to an ancient lineage.

The threats facing the frogs of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific are not uniformly distributed, and our understanding of frogs and their conservation needs, varies among and within regions. Within the book, the coverage of Australia is divided into biogeographic areas, and there are also chapters on the introduced Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) and its impact, the role of ex-situ conservation, and state and federal laws in relation to frog conservation.

Our great hope is that this book serves to stimulate research into frogs and provides a better foundation for making conservation decisions- helping ensure that the unique frogs of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific are conserved into the future.

Dr Jodi Rowley
Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, AMRI & UNSW

Heatwole, H. & Rowley, J. J. L. Eds. (2018). Status of Conservation and Decline of Amphibians: Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands. CSIRO Publishing, Clayton South, Australia. 231 pp.


A massive thank you to Harold (Hal) Heatwole for inviting me to co-edit the book, the amazing co-authors (Ross A. Alford, Ben D. Bell, Phillip J. Bishop, Kay Bradfield, Philip Byrne, Nick Clemann, Harold G. Cogger, David Coote, Murray Evans, Robert N. Fisher, Deon Gilbert, Graeme R. Gillespie, Greg Hollis, David Hunter, Frank Lemckert, Michael Mahony, Gerry Marantelli, Michael McFadden, David Newell, Joanne Ocock, Annie Philips, J. Dale Roberts, Ben Scheele, Richard Shine, Skye Wassens, Matt West, and George Zug), Stephen Mahony (for many stunning frog photos) and all at CSIRO Publishing. It was an absolute pleasure and honour working with you all!