View all news

Frogs are calling: restored waterways show results for amphibians


Sharlene King, media officer, Southern Cross University,
9 May 2017

Native frogs appear to be thriving in restored waterways around Rocky Creek Dam, on the NSW North Coast, after Landcare members and Southern Cross University researchers used automated recording devices to capture a diversity of amphibian calls.

Now the community research partnership project’s protocol for the restoration of riparian areas, incorporating best management practice around frog consideration and protection, is being taken up by other Landcare groups and landholders.

The project was led by Emma Stone of Whian Whian Landcare and Dr David Newell, Dr John Grant and Rosalie Willacy in the University’s School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

The team recorded and identified frog calls in riparian sites that were re-planted 20 years ago through to two-year-old sites and sites that were degraded and impacted by dense weed coverage.

Listen to the Cascade Tree Frog (Litoria pearsoniana).

Emma said the results – including three threatened frog species found in a two-year-old regenerating Landcare site – were encouraging.

“We were able to plot species diversity in varying conditions.

“We found greater frog species richness in the native regenerated areas of 20 years. We also found an encouraging range of frog species in sites of recent restoration works. It was a positive sign in that even two years on from restoration works there appears to be a positive impact on the frogs. We are comfortable our efforts are enhancing habitat for frogs.”

The project team worked primarily with landholders and the Landcare community to install the recording equipment in a range of sites in the Rocky Creek and Branch Creek areas.

“The community listened to the tracks recorded and matched the calls recorded with different frog species,” said Emma.

“Now other Landcare groups are interested in the research model and in doing similar surveys of frog species in their river restoration works.”

The University loaned the equipment to the Landcare team, cross-checked the identification records and provided knowledge and expertise at a community forum.

“This is a case of ‘if you build it they will come’,” said Dr David Newell of the riparian restoration works.

“Many of our native frogs that live along streams require forested habitats and features such as deep layers of leaf litter. Food sources are also important. In our subtropical climate we get to see the results of plantings relatively quickly and this project has shown us that with a bit of time the frogs will move in.

“Restoring degraded riparian areas is a great thing to do for native fauna and it is also good for your soul.”

The catalyst for the project, which started in 2014, was a classroom discussion when Emma was a student enrolled in the Bachelor of Indigenous Studies majoring in Sustainability, at the University’s Lismore campus.

“Dr David Newell inspired me to develop a project based on a discussion about what impact river restoration works might be having on frogs in the waterways and whether frogs could be an indicator for the health of that environment.”

The project team was recognised at the 2016 Southern Cross University Excellence in Engagement Awards with an award in the Engaged Research category.

“The award has definitely inspired not just our Landcare group but others to engage in on-ground works as well as assess the impact of those works by having an applied research project alongside it,” Emma said.

Whian Whian Landcare’s project, ‘Monitoring frog populations in upper catchments of Whian Whian, NSW’, was supported by the Norman Wettenhall Foundation.