Melbourne frog and reptile decline

This video from Australia says about itself:

Earth is facing its single largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Amphibians have been surviving and evolving for 360 million years; however there is the very real possibility that a third or even up to a half of all known amphibian species could become extinct within our lifetime – unless we are prepared to act quickly.

“The Jump: Local Encounters at Melbourne Zoo” looks at the situation in Victoria, Australia – and the conservation responses to the crisis.

From the University of Melbourne in Australia:

Messy habitat helps city frogs

Friday, 12 March 2010

A new study has revealed that lizard, snake and frog populations in Melbourne have declined dramatically since human settlement, and in order to conserve our reptiles and amphibians it is the quality, and not just the quantity of habitat that will help maintain biodiversity in our cities.

The findings coincide with the UN’s year of biodiversity in 2010, with lead author Dr Andrew Hamer, based at the University of Melbourne, stressing that reptile and frog habitats need be conserved in residential areas by keeping them as natural as possible, even if they are only small areas.

The study analyzed Melbourne’s lizard and frog populations from Victorian Government databases, extending almost as far back as European settlement. The work was undertaken by Dr Andrew Hamer and Assoc Prof Mark McDonnell from the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE) based at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and School of Botany, University of Melbourne.

They predicted which species would survive in the greater Melbourne metropolitan area, in order to identify those most sensitive to the creation of urban infrastructure and increases in human population size (urbanization), and therefore potentially at greater risk from future development.

They found that throughout greater Melbourne (up to a 60km radius from the city centre), 81 per cent of the frog species observed in 1850 had a high probability (greater than or equal to 95 per cent) of surviving until 2006. However, only 56 per cent of the reptile species had a high probability of survival. The year 2006 was chosen as the last entry in databases, but researchers note that the trends would be applicable in 2010, if not worse.

Within 10km of Melbourne, populations of reptiles declined further with only 46 per cent of species examined having a high probability of surviving, with frogs doing much better at 86 per cent of species surviving. For example, 53 per cent of skink species have a low probability of surviving because they require natural habitats such as native grassland and rock outcrops.

“Our research suggests that many reptile and frog species have been negatively affected by urbanization,” says Dr Hamer.

“It is essential to keep some native remnant areas which are as structurally complex as possible. This allows small mammals, frogs, lizards and snakes access to fallen logs and vegetation that they need to complete their daily and seasonal activities such as basking, foraging, predator avoidance and nesting.”

Assoc Prof McDonnell notes that large lizards and snakes may be more severely impacted as they require larger areas, encountering road traffic or houses where they may be killed by people or their pets.

“Implementation of the recommendations of the recently published government white paper entitled ‘Securing Our Natural Future’ would assist in slowing the further loss of reptile and frog species. To effectively conserve reptiles and frogs in cities and towns we need to protect remaining habitats and link them with corridors of native vegetation.”

The New South Wales south coast‘s booming green and golden bell frog population is complicating planned hazard reduction burning activities in the Shoalhaven: here.

The Northern Territory-based FrogWatch group says it has found a new species of frog in East Arnhem Land: here.

Alice Springs snakes: here.

Save the Frogs Day focuses on banning Atrazine in US – here.

March 2010. A report on the wildlife of England, published by Natural England, shows that almost 500 species have been lost from England, with most of these losses in the last 200 years. As European environment ministers gather next week to discuss a new target for wildlife conservation in Europe, the RSPB is urging the UK minister to secure an ambitious target to help safeguard our wildlife’s future: here.

Common pesticide identified as major threat to frogs worldwide: here.

Scientists fail to find critically endangered Golden tree frog in Trinidad: here.

Golden Coqui Frog Probably Extinct: here.

4 thoughts on “Melbourne frog and reptile decline

  1. Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog’s site fidelity may lead to further decline

    Published on Mar 11, 2010 – 7:09:56 AM

    By: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station

    ALBANY, Calif. March 10, 2010 – USDA Forest Service researchers found that site fidelity, the tendency to return to previously occupied habitats, is strong in the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. Research showed how the cumulative effects of a changing climate and introduced non-native trout are negatively impacting the habitat of a species already gone from 90 percent of its historic localities, and will further stress frogs with strong site fidelity.

    In a 10-year study using mark-recapture methods, Kathleen Matthews and Haiganoush Preisler quantified site fidelity of the frogs in a high elevation basin of Kings Canyon National Park and found that frogs were returning to breed in lakes that dry up after low snowpack years, killing all tadpoles, or to lakes where predation by introduced non-native trout reduced breeding success of frogs.

    Site fidelity is usually an effective life history strategy, allowing efficient relocation of important breeding, feeding and overwintering habitats. Because of their short active season (3-5 months) in high elevation streams and lakes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, site fidelity of the yellow-legged frog was probably historically advantageous. However, if a site deteriorates or has a new disturbance, e.g. lake drying or introduced trout, then frogs are returning to sites that can no longer sustain their life stages.

    The frog requires perennial water for successful tadpole development, which can take up to 4 years, so when a lake dries, up to four year-classes of tadpoles are lost. Currently in the study area, the largest, deepest lake not susceptible to drawdown by snowpack variability is unfavorable for successful breeding because introduced non-native trout prey upon all life history stages of the frog.

    The study notes that restoration projects that removed non-native trout respond with increased adult frog and tadpole abundance and underscores the need for incorporating site fidelity habits of this already imperiled frog into future restoration strategies.

    The full article published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences titled “Site fidelity of the declining amphibian Rana sierrae (Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog)” can be viewed at


  2. Little tree frog a rare amphibian find

    * From: The Advertiser
    * June 16, 2010 12:00AM

    CAMOUFLAGE: The new frog found in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary by young scientist Kaya Klop-Toker, inset. Pictures: KAYA KLOP-TOKER Source: AdelaideNow

    A YOUNG scientist has discovered the state’s first new frog species in 45 years.

    Kaya Klop-Toker, 23, was invited to study frogs, bouncing back after the rain, in Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

    She found lots of “cute” little tree frogs with “fantastic camouflage” and took specimens to the University of Adelaide expert, Associate Professor Mike Tyler.

    Straight away, he knew this “pretty little thing” was special. The brand new frog species will bring the total number in South Australia to 29.

    “This is the first new species to be found in South Australia since 1965, when another species unique to the Flinders Ranges called Crinia riparia, or the Flinders Ranges froglet, was described,” Prof. Tyler said.

    “The Flinders is very important in terms of the frog fauna, because there are species that are unique to the area, they don’t occur anywhere else in Australia.”

    Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.

    End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

    Associate Professor Tyler called Sanctuary owners Marg and Doug Sprigg with the exciting news. It was a very different phone call to the one they’d received earlier that day from the chairman of Marathon Resources. The uranium exploration company has served Arkaroola with notice of further work on site.

    This is the same company that illegally buried about 35 tonnes of low-level radioactive material in 22,800 plastic bags at Mount Gee back in 2007.

    Ms Sprigg has “serious concerns” about the potential impact of uranium mining on many little known and as yet undescribed species.

    “Last year a giant gecko was found in the Northern part of Arkaroola, again undescribed,” she said.

    “We just wonder what else is here that could be under threat from exploration and mining.”

    Ms Klop-Toker said she wanted to work in conservation and frogs were the “most at-risk type of animal that we have at the moment”. “We’ve lost more frogs than any other type of species in the last 50 or 100 years, so that makes me want to try and save them,” she said.

    The species’ name will be confirmed by an international naming committee.


  3. Pingback: New Australian amphibian species discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Herbicides threaten kangaroos, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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