Frogs in Australia are being pushed into the abyss of disease extinction, climate change and invasive animals.
- Eight frog species in Australia are at “high risk” of extinction over the next 20 years
- Chytrid fungal disease, climate change, and invasive species are behind the decline
- Creating safe escapes for frogs in wild and captive breeding is key to averaging many species loss.
A team of 29 scientists from across Australia warns that a number of frog species will become extinct over the next two decades if no action is taken.
Eight species are at “high risk” of extinction over the next 20 years, but four of those are likely to become extinct, according to research published in the journal Pacific Conservation Biology now
The study ranked the likelihood of extinction for Australia’s threats to identify the species most in need of intervention, according to study author Graeme Gillespie of the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security in the Northern Territory.
Dr Gillespie said the frogs would soon follow in the footsteps of Australia’s extinct reptiles, mammals, birds and plants, which are being added to the country. dire record of biodiversity.
The study’s lead author, Hayley Geyle of the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, said immediate action is needed to protect the unique species.
“The current source of resources and management isn’t just cutting it in terms of avoiding denials,” he said.
Disease that causes extinction
Amphibian chytridiomycosis (or chrytrid), caused by a fungal skin pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Four species are likely to have been killed, according to Dr Gillespie.
“This disease has been responsible for the extinction of hundreds of species of frogs around the world, including in Australia, and the decline of many more,” he said.
“For species that we think are extinct, chytrid is probably the exclusive factor.”
But for many of our other critically endangered frogs, the threats of climate change, invasive species and habitat loss are also at play.
“What these things do is they reduce the overall resilience of the species to cope with a new threat,” Dr Gillespie said.
“If a frog happens to be on a mountain top like Kosciuszko, there’s a chance for the whole species to be knocked down by an event like fire.”
Climate change could affect lowland frog species as well, according to Ed Meyer of the Queensland Frog Society, which is involved in tracking frogs in water -dependent wetlands.
“We think the rainfall shortages we have in south-east Queensland have resulted in the local extirpation of populations of some of those species,” Dr Meyer said.
Dr Meyer said the study clarified how dire the situation is for a large number of frogs in Australia.
“We risk losing additional species in a very short space of time, perhaps shorter than humans realize,” said Dr Meyer, who is not one of the authors.
Differences in frog investment
After the Black Summer bush fire tore Mt Kosciuszko in 2019/20, a the rescue mission was launched to see how critically endangered southern corroboree frogs have landed in their protected enclosures in alpine bogs.
Many enclosures were destroyed and close to two-thirds of the frogs died, but scientists hope that frog numbers may return due to an extensive captive breeding program for the species.
But there is not enough data on the ecology or population of many other frog species that are in danger of extinction, let alone captive management programs.
“Certainly there is a huge variation in the frogs on the list in terms of the amount of investment taken in securing their future,” Ms Geyle said.
“So one of the key actions is to put more research and monitoring into populations.”
Dr Meyer agreed that because some species receive more attention than others, we do not have a good understanding of their vulnerability to threats.
Acquired breeding challenges
Even for species that have captive management programs in place, their release into the wild is not immediately guaranteed.
The Kroombit tinker frog that lives in rainforest streams in central Queensland is the species most likely to become extinct by 2040 according to the new study, after four species are believed to have disappeared.
Dr. Meyer has been studying frogs since the mid-1990s and has witnessed its decline in the wild.
He said his team faced political and funding challenges when they set up a captive breeding program for the Kroombit tinker frog 13 years ago, but they are now successful. raised the frog in captivity.
“We’re currently putting together a formal captive release plan strategy to make sure we get [the release] right, “he said.
“We’ll give it a red-hot hope and hopefully we’ll buy the species some time and maybe give it a brighter future.”
Captive breeding programs are expensive, time consuming, and the last resort, Dr. Gillespie said, but there are other things that can be done.
“We can build stability in these species through addressing management issues that we have control over, ”he said.
“In some cases, it’s just a matter of putting up the appropriate fence or practicing appropriate pest management.
“We know how to control pigs. It’s not technologically very difficult. “
Moving frogs to safer habitats or even wild escapes is another potential solution.
Dr Gillespie also thinks crisis funding for endangered species could be better utilized.
“If resources are thrown around in response to those  The fire has spread evenly over the last 10 years, we will have a better outcome, ”he said.
“We would have known more about the possible impacts, and there would have been more stability in the system.
“But a big bag of money is thrown in here, it’s spent in a short time, and then it goes back to being inadequate until the next crisis.”
A spokesman for the federal environment department said they welcome the research findings, and the government is committed to recovering the threatened species.
They said government programs “increasingly include monitoring for projects on the ground to better assess the outcomes of Australian government investment and inform future actions.”