Scientists carrying out surveys to help understand the impacts of climate change on frogs in the sky island rainforests on Australia’s East Coast are calling on volunteers for help.
During the past 20 years, nine species of Australian frog have become extinct, a further 15 species have declined, and 27 species are listed as threatened, and most of these are associated with high mountain rainforests.
Climate change is adding further pressures, particularly for those amphibians living in the sky islands of Australia – isolated mountain tops in a long and ancient mountain range. These tops form an archipelago of cool and moist habitat refuges.
Professor Michael Mahony, from the University of Newcastle says, ‘The Earthwatch volunteer teams are helping us take our research to the next stage by monitoring frogs that live in sky islands, where frogs are being impacted the most by climate change.’
‘The “Australia’s Vanishing Frogs” expedition is focused on frogs,’ says Professor Mahony, ‘but our aim is to introduce the volunteers to the spectacular Gondwana Rainforest World Heritage Area … because it provides evidence of the evolutionary history of life on earth and a direct link to the origin and relationships of Australia’s unique fauna.’
The World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforest on Australia’s East Coast provides habitat for more than 200 rare or threatened plant and animal species, including a range of frog species – an important indicator species of ecosystem health.
Dr Neil Hamilton, CEO of Earthwatch Australia says, ‘Volunteers are needed to conduct frog surveys at different altitudes by walking through or alongside streams at night time, listening out for frog calls and catching tadpoles.’
According to Dr Hamilton, ‘It’s a rare opportunity for people to escape to one of Australia’s most diverse and pristine environments to work alongside rare and threatened wildlife and make a difference.’
2012 Volunteer, Jane Westcott says she’s thoroughly enjoyed her week on the Earthwatch Vanishing Frogs trip. ‘It’s been amazing to be immersed into other people’s lives, so different to my own. The knowledge of the research team is extensive and it was fabulous working along them walking the streams and rainforest in search of elusive frogs. The locations are spectacular and it is a wonderful reminder of what a beautiful place we live in.’
The research so far has established the first, long term intensive monitoring sites and data for stream-dependent temperate forest frogs in Australia. The results have also led to the recognition of species and population diversity not previously recognised. A new, high-altitude, stream-dependent species related to the glandular frog has been recognised, and two species in the leaf green stream frog group have also been raised to the level of species.
Australia’s Vanishing Frogs seven-day teams kick off on 5 November 2012, with a second team to follow on 12 January 2013.
To sign up, call Earthwatch on 03 9682 6828 or visit the Earthwatch website