17 March 2009
An innovative frog monitoring program being undertaken by Seqwater has revealed one of south-east Queensland’s catchments is croaking with some of Australia’s endangered amphibians.
Seqwater, with the support of local landholders participating in the Land for Wildlife program, has launched a low impact program to monitor the presence of frogs in the upper catchment of the Somerset Dam using nocturnal surveys and acoustic sensors developed by CSIRO to record frog vocalisations.
Seqwater Catchment Manager, Dr Adrian Volders said the program not only involved the monitoring of rare and endangered frog species but would help track water quality changes over time.
“Frogs are sensitive to changes in the environment and are widely used as indicators of ecosystem health – broadly speaking the more frogs, the healthier a catchment,” Professor Volders said.
“Our preliminary results have revealed the presence of 10 different species of frogs, including one species considered endangered, the Giant Barred Frog; and two vulnerable species, the Tusked and Cascade Tree Frogs. These results are great news for our catchment.
“The first stage of our fieldwork was conducted at the start of the wet season at the beginning of this year which involved staff going into the field over the course of a week to do nocturnal visual surveys at 12 selected sites within the catchment. They also placed a series of digital sound recorders at each of the sites to record frog vocalisations.
“These recordings will subsequently be analysed by sound recognition software that can automatically classify frog species from their vocalisations and estimate the number of individuals of each species that are in the recording.”
As part of the ongoing program, Seqwater is investigating the use of remote monitoring of frogs using wireless sensor network technology, enabling information on frogs to be gathered without the presence of people. This will help detect hard-to-find species, and enable information to be collected at different times.
Dr Volders said although frogs had been widely used as ecosystem health bio-indicators, they were also good indicators of water quality.
“Adult frogs have permeable skin which makes them susceptible to chemical contamination on land or in water and for toxins to accumulate in their fatty tissues. As part of the fieldwork staff took water samples at each of the sample sites in the catchment to test for the presence of pesticides and hydrocarbons,” he said.
“We have embarked on this program, with great assistance from Land for Wildlife and CSIRO. Many frogs in the Somerset catchment are rare or under the threat of extinction and we hope that the program will ensure their conservation and recovery.”
Mr Darren Moore, CSIRO ICT Centre Research Scientist, said six acoustic monitoring units had been installed in the field to automatically capture nocturnal frog activity each night over a three-month period.
"CSIRO is very excited to be collaborating with Seqwater on this project as it enables us to road-test our technology in rugged, real-world environments while contributing to the understanding and preservation of frog populations in the Upper Somerset Catchment. The audio data collected will also be invaluable for our ongoing research into techniques for automatic analysis and interpretation of bio-acoustic signals,” Mr Moore said.
Seqwater manages and operates all dams and treatment plants across South East Queensland, which includes 24 water storages and 49 weirs including Wivenhoe, Somerset and North Pine dams, 46 water treatment plant facilities and 14 groundwater bore fields.
Please note no frog, animal or plant is handled or removed as part of this monitoring program.