In winter 2021, thousands of dead frogs were reported across Australia. To help us understand the impact of this event on our frogs, we need your help.
A mass mortality event of frogs occurred across Australia in the winter of 2021, the scale of which was unprecedented. Reports of the deaths spanned the country, and impacted thousands of frogs of over 40 species. The ongoing impacts on our frog species from this event is yet to be fully understood and could be devastating. Since spring 2021, our team at the Australian Museum has been conducting frog surveys across the east coast to find out how are frogs are faring in the wake of this event. But we can’t do it alone – we need your help, particularly if you live in or visit one of five priority areas in New South Wales. We need you to help us by recording the calls of frogs using the FrogID app.
Many of Australia’s frogs suffered in winter 2021. Dead frogs were reported across rural paddocks and suburban backyards, and sick frogs were found sitting out in the open during the day, often discoloured and with patchy skin. In total, in that winter alone, over 1600 reports were received by people across Australia of sick and dead frogs. And it wasn’t just a single species – over 40 species of frog were reported sick and dying, including threatened species such as the Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporus australiacus), Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea), Southern Bell Frog (Litoria raniformis), and Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus).
This awful event was national in scale, with reports from every state and territory, but was most intense along the east coast, from southeast Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales. As frogs are often tiny, camouflaged and highly secretive, the true number of dead frogs, where the event occurred and the number of species impacted is likely much larger than reported. Although thankfully not at the enormous scale reported in 2021, sick and dead frogs were also reported this winter.
The 2021 frog mortality event was so large that it may have serious population-level impacts on Australian frog species. This is particularly worrying, as many of Australia’s frog species are already threatened with extinction. If you’re a frog species that’s already been pushed to the brink from habitat loss and modification, disease, drought and fire, could this spate of frog deaths be the last straw? And while it’s undoubtedly bad news for frogs, because frogs are such an important part of healthy ecosystems, there’s the real potential for the impacts of this event to be felt across entire ecosystems.
To understand just what impact the terrible winter of 2021 has had on our frogs, the Australian Museum’s Herpetology team has been out surveying frogs since spring 2021. We’ve also been analysing data contributed by people across the country using the Australian Museum’s FrogID app. We’re cautiously optimistic that our frogs can bounce back, but it’s too early to be sure, and we really need more data. We simply can’t understand how our frogs are faring without your help.
Please help us by listening out for calling frogs and recording them with the free FrogID app. While recordings from anywhere across Australia are important, we are particularly interested in receiving submissions of calling frogs from five priority areas in New South Wales:
- The Glen Innes/Guyra area on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales.
- The Gloucester/Barrington area in the Upper Hunter area of New South Wales.
- The Terrey Hills/Cottage Point area in the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
- The Cranebrook/Londonderry area of Western Sydney.
- The Katoomba area of the Blue Mountains.
Our team will be conducting fieldwork in these areas, but to gain a better understanding of the health of frog populations in these areas, we need your help.
While every single FrogID submission will help us understand how our frogs are faring, if you live in or are visiting the five priority areas, your FrogID submissions will be particularly important. Only together can we gather the information we need to understand the impact of the winter 2021 mortality event on our frogs and make conservation recommendations to help ensure all our unique frogs are around for future generations.
Dr Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum & UNSW Sydney. Lead Scientist, FrogID.
Thanks to the tens of thousands of people across Australia recording frogs using the FrogID app, and the National Geographic Society for supporting this project.