Amphibians are critically important in maintaining balanced populations of insects and in turn providing a critical source of food for carnivorous birds, mammals and reptiles. Frogs also are extremely good indices of ecosystem health, and population decline in amphibians has often been used as sentinels to trigger investigations into environmental toxins and disease.
Amphibian declines are occurring at an unprecedented rate, with one third of amphibian species threatened with extinction globally, likely due to disease caused by chytrid fungus. In the Australian Alps, the iconic Northern Corroboree Frog has declined precipitously due to this disease and is now listed as critically endangered. This project aims to understand how co-occurrence of frog species and habitat structure influence chytrid fungus prevalence in wild northern corroboree frog populations, and to develop strategies to help maximise the survivorship of reintroduced eggs bred at Taronga Zoo.
Taronga’s Herpetofauna division are recognised experts in reptile and amphibian husbandry, biology and ecology. Ben Scheele’s PhD research focuses on host–pathogen dynamics in both declining and recovering frog populations. Ben’s findings will facilitate an increased understanding of chytridiomycosis and inform strategies to assist species threatened by chytridiomycosis.
What you can do: Immerse yourself in nature, enjoy Australia’s unique plants and animals but be sure to clean your walking gear and boots well in between bush walks to avoid tracking chytrid into new areas. Amphibians face multiple threats you can also help save and create habitats by avoiding the use of pesticides.