Yanco Creek and Tributaries: Intensive frog surveys of creek and farm habitats 2019-20

Anna Turner, Skye Wassens, Dale McNeil

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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Abstract

Limited ecological surveys have been conducted in the Yanco-billabong creek system, particularly for aquatic animals and plants. Information such as frog species and abundance, water quality and vegetation diversity is critical in making informed, evidence-based natural resource management decisions. This project has been developed in partnership with Charles Sturt University and Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council (YACTAC) to increase the knowledge of the ecology of this system. More specifically, these surveys aimed to increase understanding of the ecological value of constructed waterbodies such as farm dams and irrigation channels during dry years, when wetlands and billabongs are dry.
Seven properties were selected for the 2019-20 frog surveys across the Mid-Yanco, Colombo and Lower Billabong creek systems. Selection was based on previous surveys in the region during the 2017-18 water year (Walcott et al., 2018) and targeted detection of the endangered Southern Bell frog (Litoria raniformis). To better understand the value of refuge habitats during dry years, six survey sites were selected on each property; three natural sites (wetland or creek) and three constructed waterbodies (dams or irrigation channels). On “Sheepwash” only one of each site type was selected due to the sites available.
Intensive frog surveys were conducted on two occasions. First at the end of November 2019 and repeated during the second week of January 2020, the peak breeding season and therefore increased possibility for detection of the Southern Bell frog. Where wetlands surveyed during the 2017-18 surveys were found to be dry, nearby creek sites were selected.
Overall, seven species of frog were identified across the system: Spotted Marsh frog, Barking Marsh frog and Eastern Sign-bearing froglet, Eastern Banjo frog, Giant Banjo frog, Peron’s tree frog and the Southern Bell frog. Despite the dry season, an increase in water levels occurred prior to the January surveys due to a combination of inter valley transfer and environmental water. This increase in flow led to an increase in frog activity in the creek system observed during the January surveys. Most notably was the increase in calling and sightings of Southern Bell frogs at “Broome”.
Based on the findings of this study, natural resource management actions which improve/ sustain aquatic vegetation diversity and provide aquatic habitats which persist during spring and summer could sustain and improve frog occupancy in this system. Farm dams and irrigation channels provide important alternative habitat for many of the frog species detected. Improving the diversity of aquatic vegetation in these structures by mechanisms such as restricting stock access may see an increase in vegetation and consequently in increase frog numbers, providing important refuge habitat during dryer years.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherInstitute of Land Water and Society
Commissioning bodyYanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2020

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