Macquarie Marshes – Frogs

Jo Ocock – PhD Student

Research Supervisors: Prof. Richard Kingsford, Dr. Trent Penman, Dr. Jodi Rowley, Dr Tom Rayner

With over 200 species, Australia has one of the most diverse frog assemblages in the world. For many species, however the prognosis is grim. Some of the decline in Australian frogs has been explained by the presence of the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. However, the role of other factors, such as habitat alteration and altered flooding patterns, are poorly understood. Frogs are one of more conspicuous inhabitants of the arid and semi-arid regions. However, there is little ecological information about how regulation of rivers and changes to the natural flow regime in these regions has impacted the distribution, abundance and reproduction of the frogs. The Macquarie Marshes are a freshwater semi-permanent wetland of significant conservation importance in central western NSW, within the Murray Darling Basin. Research in this nationally and internationally recognised wetland has demonstrated the links between flow regulation and significant reductions in abundance, richness and diversity of fish, waterbirds, invertebrates and vegetation communities. My research will focus on the links between flow regime and frogs in a semi-arid floodplain wetland.

 

Frogs, flow and rainfall: are the frogs of floodplain wetlands affected by river regulation?

The project is about restoring life back to the degraded wetlands of the Murray Darling Basin. Frogs and the wetlands of the Murray Darling Basin are threatened by an altered flow regime and water abstraction, which has decreased the size, duration and frequency of floods. This seems to have reduced the available habitat and breeding opportunities the frogs.  By focussing on frogs, we will significantly improve knowledge about these poorly understood wetland animals and their requirements for a happy, healthy communities. We will also improve wetland health and functioning because frogs are fundamental to wetland food-webs, connected to terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Therefore we are sustaining the food source for other wetland animals such as birds, fishes, snakes, lizards and insects. But there is actually little understanding of how frogs have been affected because we know little about the relationship between the frogs and the flow regime of these wetlands.

I aim to be able to explain which areas should be targeted by environmental water flooding, duration of flooding, and how frequently flooding should occur to benefit frogs and their dependent organisms. However, this project fundamentally aims to provide an ecosystem-level conservation scope, as outcomes will extend from the frog population to the entire floodplain wetland ecosystem. We can then translate this relationship into recommendations for management of environmental water flows. I have been carrying out fieldwork in the Macquarie Marshes, inland NSW, for three seasons, including the largest flood in a decade (Sept ‘10 to Feb ‘11). At the local level, the Macquarie Marshes are extremely important habitat for frogs, 15 species have been recorded there, more than any other inland wetland in NSW. A number of our findings have been already implemented into monitoring and management of environmental water in the Marshes.

 

Marshes research on ABC news

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c9nXWNDijY

 

Frogs of the Macquarie Marshes

Ocock J.F. 2011. An informal guide to the frogs of the Macquarie Marshes (pamphlet edition). Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre, University of New South Wales

 

Contact Information

Tel: +61 2 9385 8276

Email: jo.ocock@gmail.com

 

Publications

Ocock J.F. (2012) “Natural history note – Uperoleia rugosa (Wrinkled toadlet) BEHAVIOUR” Herpetological Review.

Ocock J.F 2011 “Floodplain Wetland Biota in the Murray-Darling Basin: Water and Habitat Requirements” Book review. Austral Ecology Vol. 36 Issue 7, pe39-e39

Ocock J.F. 2011. An informal guide to the frogs of the Macquarie Marshes (pamphlet edition). Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre, University of New South Wales.

Ocock JF. (2009)2008. What role do threatened species lists play in New Zealand conservation? Pacific Conservation Biology 12: 255-256
 
Sheridan, JAS and Ocock, JF. (2008)2008. Parental Care in Chiromantis hansenae (Anura, Rhacophoridae). Copeia.4: 733=736
 
Ocock, J.F., Baasanjav, G., Baillie, J.E.M., Chimendtseren, O., Erdenebat, M., Kottelat, M., Mendsaikhan, B., and Smith, K. (2006) Mongolian Red List of Fishes. ADMON, Ulaanbaatar.
 
Ocock, J.F., Baasanjav, G., Baillie, J.E.M., Chimendtseren, O., Erdenebata, M., Kottelat, M., Mendsaikhan, B., and Smith, K. (2007)(2006) Summary Conservation Action Plans for Mongolian Fishes. ADMON, Ulaanbaatar.
 
Ocock, J.F., Clark, E.L., King, S.R.B., and Baillie, J.E.M. (2009)(2005) Fishes: Assessment results and threats. Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences Vol 3 No 2: 29
 
Clark, E.L., Ocock, J.F., King, S.R.B., and Baillie, J.E.M. (2005) Proceedings of the Mongolian Biodiversity Databank Workshop: Assessing the conservation status of Mongolian mammals and fishes: 1 – Results and outputs of the workshop. Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences Vol 3 No 2: 3
 
Clark, E.L., Ocock, J.F., King, S.R.B., and Baillie, J.E.M. (2005) Mammals: Assessment results and threats. Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences Vol 3 No 2: 17

Presentations

2011 Society of Wetland Scientists, Prague, Czech Republic

2011, Ecological Society of Australia, Hobart, Australia

2011, Society of Conservation Biologists, Auckland, New Zealand

Awards

2012, Best landscape ecology talk at the BEES, UNSW Postgraduate Research Forum

2010, Species conservation prize at the BEES UNSW Postgraduate Research Forum

Grants

2011, Foundation of National Parks and Wildlife Service, Conservation Award

2011 and 2010, Frog and Tadpole Society of Sydney, Student Research Award

Research Program: 
Aquatic Species Ecology
Research Themes: 
Rivers and Wetlands

Publications for this project

News for this project

02/06/2014

Frogs - Where do they go when it floods

We radio-tracked 52 frogs to investigate the influence of weather and flooding on habitat use, size of activity area and nightly movement. Activity area sizes and nightly distances of the species were highly variable.

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