Hop to it ... Aussie frogs are in trouble and need your help

AMPHIBIAN OASIS: One of the best things you can do is create a frog pond or a frog hotel where our croaky friends can live and thrive. Picture: Dr Laura Grogan
AMPHIBIAN OASIS: One of the best things you can do is create a frog pond or a frog hotel where our croaky friends can live and thrive. Picture: Dr Laura Grogan

"Sick and dead frogs in my backyard!", "Frogs dying in large numbers", a flurry of reports started coming in last winter.

After a devastating year of drought and bushfires, our frogs, right up the East Coast of Australia were facing mass die-offs due to a pandemic of their own.

Frog chytrid fungus is one of the greatest threats to amphibians globally.

At least four Australian frog species have been driven to extinction due to this deadly fungus.

The vivid southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree), one of Australia's most iconic frogs, is listed as critically endangered.

The vivid southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree), one of Australia's most iconic frogs, is listed as critically endangered.

While the chytrid disease has been affecting Australia's frogs for many years, usually we don't see mass die-offs.

It's unclear why we're seeing them now, but it's likely due to prevailing environmental conditions.

And it's just another sign that our backyard frogs are in trouble.

Frogs are essential in the food web, and they also help control insect pests, including those pesky mosquitoes that can carry diseases.

While usually dependent on water as tadpoles and for breeding, frogs occur throughout Australia, even in the harsh central deserts where they burrow in the ground between rainfall events.

Frogs act as ecosystem alarm bells for a wide range of stressors, such as pollution and drought.

Fleay's barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi) is on the endangered list. Picture: Josie Humphries

Fleay's barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi) is on the endangered list. Picture: Josie Humphries

Although astonishingly diverse with unique adaptations to suit their varied lifestyles, frogs are less able to cope with the rapid and extreme environmental changes that we've seen in recent years.

Declines in frog populations can signal a deteriorating environment.

Frogs act as ecosystem alarm bells for a wide range of stressors, such as pollution and drought.

With the ever-increasing urban sprawl, increased pollution, climate change and catastrophic weather events such as bushfires, frogs now have fewer and fewer places to call home.

The green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) is classified as vulnerable nationally. Picture: Josie Humphries

The green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) is classified as vulnerable nationally. Picture: Josie Humphries

And with these stressors only likely to worsen in the future, frogs need our help to weather this storm.

Despite their importance and vulnerability, frogs receive surprisingly little conservation attention, when compared with mammals and birds, such as koalas and kookaburras.

HOP TO IT

But there are ways you can help!

Get the whole family involved this summer and create homes and habitat for our froggy friends.

Set up a frog hotel in your yard or on your porch.

They require little space and can be made using old materials you might have lying around.

For those with a bit more space, consider building a frog pond in your garden.

Be sure to follow your local council regulations about pond safety and depth.

The giant burrowing frog (Heleioporus australiacus) is found throughout Australia and is listed as vulnerable. Picture: Josie Humphries

The giant burrowing frog (Heleioporus australiacus) is found throughout Australia and is listed as vulnerable. Picture: Josie Humphries

Planting the banks of ponds and waterways with native vegetation attracts food for frogs, provides them with shelter from predators and can help to keep cane toads away (particularly mat rushes such as Lomandras).

In urban areas, frogs need well-connected patches of habitat for population resilience.

Consider volunteering with your local council or community group on revegetation projects that help to restore local waterways, parks and nature reserves.

If you're lucky enough to already have frogs in your backyard or nearby reserves, have a go at identifying the local species.

The Australian green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) is considered of least concern in terms of population numbers. Picture: Josie Humphries

The Australian green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) is considered of least concern in terms of population numbers. Picture: Josie Humphries

Frogs are relatively easy to identify using field guide apps (such as Frogs of Australia) by the unique mating calls made by males during the breeding season.

Alternatively, you can submit an audio recording for identification via the Australian Museum's FrogID app.

This summer, get the kids involved and spend some time getting to know your local frogs.