By Anne Stelling, Parklands Albury Wodonga
It’s frog season and anyone walking in the parks will be well aware – in some places the evening chorus can be almost deafening!
Hearing their combined calls, I find myself listening for one in particular – the big, intermittent ‘gulp’ call of the Eastern Banjo frog. I haven’t heard it yet where I have heard it previously… so where is my Banjo frog, and why would it not be here?
Hopefully, I have just missed hearing it. But perhaps something has changed? Here we enter the realm of amphibian decline – a world-wide phenomenon first noticed late last century.
Frogs are highly sensitive to environmental changes. Researchers have identified multiple factors contributing to dwindling populations; water polluted with chemicals, water made more acid by the nitrites and sulphates released when we burn fossil fuels, increased UV radiation (and we know we have plenty of that!), predation by non-native fish, increased disease associated with climate change, and then there’s the big one – habitat destruction.
Frog habitat is generally low lying, usually wet, often marshy and associated with insects like mosquitoes. Just the sort of place we humans don’t really like to live. In the past, we drained these areas to prevent illnesses associated with damp air, and to grow more grass for our livestock. Nowadays we are likely to be building roads, shopping centres and housing estates on them. We really are masters of frog habitat destruction.
Frogs are a ‘canary in the coal mine’ species, their loss being an indicator of basic problems in our freshwater ecosystem, which may well affect our own health in the longer term. Noticing frogs, and noticing their absence, is therefore well worth our while.
Even better, we can protect, retain and return frog habitat. As residents of a growing urban centre, we can ensure frog habitat is retained in new developments, and the water running into those habitats is clean and not polluted with chemicals.
In our own back yards, we can accommodate frogs by making sure they have cool, moist places to hide, plenty of insects to eat – perfectly provided by a native garden – and somewhere like a ‘frog bog’ or pond to breed. A great local resource for frog friendly gardening can be found at wodongalandcare.org.au/g4w/
I’ve built my pond, now I’m off to listen for my Banjo again!