Sunrise over Point Lookout,
New England National Park, NSW, Australia
Endangered Fleay's barred frog
We're a team of researchers based around eastern Australia (with collaborators overseas), studying the population dynamics of frogs, impacts of environmental contaminants on frogs, and the infection dynamics of the devastating frog fungal skin disease, chytridiomycosis.
We aim to improve understanding of the factors permitting recovery of frog populations in the face of disease, and to assist with global amphibian conservation efforts.
The World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of south-east QLD and north-east NSW are a local hotspot for amphibians, with > 40 frog species being found here. However, amphibians around the world are in peril – they are the most endangered vertebrate class, suffering a multitude of threats including habitat loss, disease, pollution, climate change, and invasive species. Seven species of Australian frogs have become extinct since the 1970s due to disease alone, three of them in our local region.
Chytridiomycosis is an infectious skin disease of frogs caused by the fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
(Bd) and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal) (only Bd is currently known to be present in Australia). These
pathogens have been implicated in the decline
or extinction of greater than 200 amphibian species; approximately half those experiencing rapid declines globally. Frog populations around the world are continuing to decline, and some that survived initially
fail to recover to their previous densities.
Chytridiomycosis is an unprecedented threat for amphibians. It is unusual among emerging infectious diseases in its ability to drive populations to extinction, and many amphibian species are now only secure in captivity. The disease also increases the risk of extinction from other threatening processes. Abating this crisis is one of the most urgent issues in conservation today.
Eradication of the fungus is impossible, and intensive control through targeted management strategies is essential to help small populations recover. Management techniques are currently limited to preventing spread of the disease, or removing frogs from the wild. While the value of captive breeding and release programs is controversial, they are currently the only effective tool for preventing extinction in declining species. Unfortunately, despite successful captive rearing, the disease is still present in the environment, and frogs still die when they are reintroduced to the wild.
Richmond Range mountain frog