From suburban Sydney to the most remote parts of the country, FrogID citizen scientists are helping to better understand Aussie frogs.
In just three months, more than 10,000 Australians across the country have joined FrogID, to record the calls of their local frogs. In total, over 13,000 recordings have been submitted, putting more than 15,000 records of native frog species on the map. But why is this so important?
Frogs are in trouble and Australia has a pretty bad track record when it comes to frog conservation. We’ve already lost at least four of our 240-known native frog species. Many more are perched on the edge of extinction, with 29 species of Australian frog listed as threatened nationally.
There’s no single cause of frog population declines and extinctions. Frogs are threatened by habitat loss and modification, disease (particularly the amphibian chytrid fungus), pollution, introduced species and climate change. And one of the biggest obstacles in ensuring that we don’t lose any more of our iconic frog species, is our lack of knowledge.
Surprisingly, we don’t yet even understand how many species of frog we have in Australia. Seventeen frog species have been discovered in Australia in the past decade alone and more are likely awaiting discovery. Even for the species that we do know exist, there’s often very little information on them where they are found, how healthy they are and what kind of habitat they require. Vast tracts of Australia, hundreds of kilometers across, have never had any official recordings of frogs, even though many frog species are likely to be present. This is a huge issue: if we don’t know what frogs are where, then we can’t properly take them into account in important land-use decisions, such as where to locate a national park or building development.
In just three months, we’ve made some significant advances in our understanding of frogs. We’ve recorded a remarkable 122 species of frog – over half of all Australia’s native frog species. Some species are very well-represented indeed: Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii) is a common suburban inhabitant along eastern Australia and we’ve received more than 2500 recordings of the species’ characteristic chuckle. The sheer number of records we’re collecting of this species, and other often-recorded frogs, will give us a better chance of understanding how frog species are responding to a changing environment. In contrast, the calls of more than a fifth of all frog species documented have been recorded only once. Every record of these rarely-encountered species is incredibly important.
Several FrogID citizen scientist heroes have stood out already. Matt and Amy, from the Northern Territory, have recorded more than 100 frog calls each. Henk, from South Australia, and Justin, from Queensland, are not far behind! Four FrogID froggers have recorded more than 20 species each, with Wise, in North Queensland, topping the leaderboard in terms of the number of species documented.
Together, all our achievements are significant. We’ve already collected about 3% of all the official, spatially-valid records of frogs ever collected in Australia (Atlas of Living Australia). On top of that, because we have call recordings backing up each record, our identifications can be checked and rechecked in the future - unlike most of the previous records of frogs, which are only observations. On top of that, the FrogID app automatically records the location and time of each recording.
Through FrogID, we’re getting an understanding of Australia’s frogs that was never before possible. Thank you to each and every FrogID frogger- let’s keep putting frogs on the map!
Dr Jodi Rowley
Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum & UNSW