The Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group Compensatory Habitat and Ecological Monitoring Program (CHEMP) has been developed to offset impacts to local ecology, including to the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog.
To achieve the objectives of the Green and Golden Bell Frog program, research, habitat establishment, active conservation and habitat management tasks have been undertaken.
To date, Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group has funded three separate PhD and Post-doctorate studies specifically on Green and Golden Bell Frog. The most notable project has been to better understand the behaviour of the species, which was previously not well understood. The majority of this research was completed through lab-scale, pilot and field studies. This included behavioural monitoring within specially-designed “arenas”, testing the frog’s response to various stimuli, including individuals of the same species. Other research has focused more on the use of habitat, particularly in the presence of the Chytrid fungus, a key threatening process. This research was exclusively conducted in an area of one hectare, designed and constructed specifically for the study.
Construction of habitat has included over three hectares of new aquatic habitat for Litoria aurea spread across a 78 hectare landscape precinct, including extensive earthworks and acid sulfate soil treatment.
Key outcomes for the Green and Golden Bell Frog have been:
- Significant research findings in relation to the behaviour of adult male Green and Golden Bell Frog, in particular their strong preference to aggregate during calling. While conducting research, it was also found that while some habitat traits may positively influence the impacts of Chytrid, bell frogs do not knowingly preference this type of habitat.
- Successful creation of a new habitat, including establishment of healthy coastal freshwater wetland species such as Bolboschoenus spp., Schoenoplectus validus and Carex appressa.
- Optimal water quality maintained while creating new ponds as well as providing ecosystem services through healthy vegetation.
Most significantly, the re-introduction of Green and Golden Bell Frog to areas of Ash Island has resulted in natural breeding events in two consecutive seasons during 2014/15 and 2015/16. This was achieved at the earliest time possible based on the sexual maturity of released animals. Leading to this milestone were several precursor achievements, such as:
- Successful re-introduction of captive-bred animals into the specially constructed Research Area, also located on Ash Island
- Natural migration of introduced animals across the landscape to populate neighbouring ponds, both from the Research Area to newly constructed ponds and between new ponds within the landscape
- Successful re-introduction of captive-bred animals into the broader landscape with high survival rates through the introduction phase.
- Continued observations of juvenile and adult Bell Frogs in the constructed habitat since 2014
Video - Tadpole "Balls" in the Newcastle Coal Trial Site
Key features of the ongoing management of bell frog habitat at Ash Island includes:
- Ongoing maintenance of habitat, including weed control and native vegetation management
- Pest control, including fox control programs and management of invasive fish species. This has a benefit to broader National Park values
- Monitoring Bell Frogs and their habitat. This includes population monitoring, water quality testing and broader habitat monitoring
Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group will continue to manage the Bell Frog habitat during the operation of the coal terminal. As responsible land managers, we will endeavour to ensure that the species remains on Ash Island in partnership with our stakeholders.