Wednesday, 21 February 2018 08:24

Hopping back from brink

A rare discovery of two new sites with resident growling grass frogs in the Gippsland Lakes has delighted ecologists. With the population of the threatened frogs estimated at only 40 to 60 individuals in the Gippsland Lakes area, the finding has been heralded as a clear indicator that conservation efforts are having a significant impact. The discovery of the striking green frogs in a recently enhanced wetland at Clydebank, was made by a Melbourne University masters student working with Greening Australia and the species National Recovery Team. Populations of growling grass frogs, one of Australia ʼs largest frog species, which were once widely distributed across many parts of Australia, have declined by an estimated 50% in the past decade. “When you think that the number of Growling Grass Frogs in the lakes could be as low as 40, finding an additional 2 new sites containing approximately 10 individuals is particularly significant,” Greening Australia Gippsland project officer, Martin Potts, said. Tadpoles of another nationally endangered amphibian, the Golden-Bell Frog which number an estimated 400 to 600 individuals in the lakes, were also spotted during the surveys in another newly enhanced wetland site. “With the numbers of Golden- Bell Frogs in such serious decline, knowing that these frogs are using the newly restored springs and not only that, but are breeding in them during a dry summer that makes conditions highly unfavourable, is extraordinary. “You couldnʼt create a better outcome for our project. We have created new habitat and these threatened frog species are using it. To have a species respond like this is just outstanding.

There is no better way to measure the success of our on-ground work. It is beyond what we could have hoped for.” Greening Australia has been working with partners through state government funding for more than a decade to improve the health of the Gippsland Lakes. With the lakes transitioning to a marine environment, the team is working to restore the health of its fringing wetlands to ensure safe habitat remains for freshwater dependent species. “The current transition to a saltwater system which we know the Gippsland Lakes has been before, is not a bad thing and brings many associated benefits such as providing habitat for migratory bird species and creating lovely salt dependent environments,” Mr Potts said. “For those species like frogs who are reliant on fresh water however, we are also working to ensure there is still lots around for them in the future.” The State Government has recently announced an additional $596,000 for Greening Australia to build on its work in the Gippsland Lakes. In addition to restoration, Mr Potts says that the funding will also enable the continued involvement of local communities in projects, including engaging Aboriginal youth in the Sale area in natural resource management activities to highlight the connection of their culture to the local environment. “We are extremely lucky to have wetlands of international significance right here in Gippsland. The lakes and their 30,000ha of fringing wetlands are home to a diverse array of native wildlife and provide critical feeding ground for migratory birds. We are working to improve the health of these important wetlands so they and their residents survive and thrive into the future.”