Common Spadefoot Toad (Neobatrachus sudelli)
by Geoff Heard

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

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Updated: Aug 1, 2020

By Rob Hale, WetMAP scientist

Geoff Brown and I (both from the Arthur Rylah Institute - ARI) have spent the past few months analysing the data collected from the WetMAP frog monitoring during 2018-20.

We have found clear benefits of environmental watering for frogs. Significantly more frogs were counted (number of frog species, total number of frogs, and numbers of individuals of each species) at wetlands that received environmental water than at dry sites. In many cases, we observed as many or more frogs at wetlands that received environmental water than those that are permanently wet. We have also found that water quality and habitat (like vegetation along the edges of wetlands) are important for frogs.

The total number of frogs observed at WetMAP sites during 2019 audio-visual surveys.

D “Dry”: Wetlands that did not receive environmental water and were dry, n (sample size) = 5

NAT “Natural”: Wetlands that only received natural water (e.g. rainfall) and contained water, n = 1

PW “Previously Watered”: Wetlands that have received environmental water in the previous year and still contained water, n = 3

W “Watered”: Wetlands that received environmental water in the spring, n = 9

PER “Permanently Wet”: Wetlands that always contain water and sometimes get topped up with environmental water, n = 4

The bold horizontal lines mark the median (middle) number of frogs we counted. The boxes around them show the amount of variation in our results as the (interquartile range: 25th to 75th percentile). For example, dry sites never had any frogs, but watered sites often had between 25 and 80 frogs depending on the visit. The vertical tails show the extremes of the data (values greater than 1.5 x interquartile range), and the black dot shows a value outside these extremes.

We are also starting to explore the relationship between frogs and the longer-term hydrological regime. While individual inundation events are important, understanding longer-term fluctuations is critical to managing wetlands. Our results so far show that different species respond differently to changes in wetland hydrology. For instance, we found:

  • more Eastern Sign-Bearing Froglets (Crinia parinsignifera) when wetlands contained water for more of the previous 30 days,

  • more Eastern Banjo Frogs (Limnodynastes dumerilii – also known as “Pobblebonk”) in wetlands with a higher proportion with water in the previous 90 days.

This could be because the tadpoles of the Eastern Sign-Bearing Froglet develop faster than those of the Eastern Banjo Frog. This sort of information can help us determine how much environmental water needs to be released so that wetlands have water in them when the frogs need it to breed.

We are preparing a technical report summarising our key findings for catchment management authorities and DELWP to help inform how future environmental flows can be managed most effectively.

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Updated: Aug 1, 2020

By Elaine Bayes, WetMAP field scientist

The autumn/winter 2020 WetMAP frog surveys have just been completed. We carried out surveys in three wetlands in the North Central catchment and seven in the Goulburn-Broken catchment, following environmental watering in autumn/winter.

It was a tad on the cold side (for us, not the frogs!) and my partner Damien Cook and I camped out at the wetlands for around two weeks. The night time survey temperatures were between 9-11°, but the rewards were worth the chilly fingers. Crisp, clear night skies and a feeling of awe as we stood quietly on the edge of the wetland, torches off, listening to the frog calls piercing the sharp air.

As well as environmental water, many sites had a helping hand from autumn and winter rains. Doctors Swamp in Murchison looked stunning, as run-off from substantial rain had stimulated the growth of abundant aquatic plants and aquatic food webs were kicked into action by the addition of water and nutrients.

Doctors Swamp and Moodies Swamp, which are two of the most ecologically and hydrologically (flooding/drying regime) intact wetlands in the region, had the most frog species this season, with 4 and 5 species present respectively.

Seven species of frog were detected during the May to July 2020 surveys, some of which were different to those heard or seen during summer surveys.

Different frog species call at different times of year, so as well as the common species which we hear all year round, we were excited to see and hear the Painted Burrowing Frog (Neobatrachus sudelli), a particularly photogenic species (if a bit comical looking) that is usually buried in the soil but emerges after rain events. If you look closely, they actually have a spade-like structure on the hind foot for digging!

The black “spade” of a Painted Burrowing Frog Neobatrachus sudelli

(also known as the Spadefoot Frog).

Painted Burrowing Frog Neobatrachus sudelli

So rug up and happy frogging. ‘Til next time when we will be raving about the heat and the mossies!

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