Environmental impact if the Corroboree frog becomes extinct?

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Kymberleigh Rowland
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Environmental impact if the Corroboree frog becomes extinct?

Postby Kymberleigh Rowland » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:16 pm

I am currently teaching Socieity and Environment in South Australia. While this site is fantastic in providing a lot of information, I would like to know the environmental impact if the Corroboree frog becomes extinct. I am aiming at doing a species study at a year 10 level as part of my Climate Change unit. Any information would be appreciated.

David De Angelis
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Postby David De Angelis » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:31 pm

Hi Kimberleigh,

That's a very good question and a complex one to answer. It's unlikely that Corroboree Frogs play a major ecological role by themselves, but nevertheless contribute to the richness of the alpine ecosystem in which they're found. There have been a few hypotheses put forward to predict the impact of loosing species on ecosystems, but it's likely that the loss of some species will be more detrimental to the bigger picture than the loss of others.

Don't know that much research has been done into this in the case of the Corroboree Frog (someone else may have a better idea), but there are certainly other small frogs living in the Corroboree's habitat that are much more common and would fulfill similar basic ecological functions.

One of the stronger arguments for conserving a species like the Corroboree frog is that it's a flagship for wildlife conservation in the Australian high country, being familiar to many Australians. It tends to get lots of publicity, and therefore more funding for recovery efforts that some other less-well-known threatened species. Some of the broader management actions undertaken specifically for the Corroboree Frog (like monitoring and managing disturbance to alpine bogs by feral pigs) are therefore likely to benefit other alpine species, and contribute to the overall recovery of the ecosystem. Without a flagship like the Corroboree Frog, some of those actions might not have been considered.

Hope that helps.

Cheers,
David.

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Evan
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Postby Evan » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:06 pm

David has summed it up very well. Determining the effect of species loss on an ecosystem can be very difficult, and has generally not been done for most species. With some species it is particularly obvious, such as the role of rainforest elephants in shaping the structure of the forest. However, for frogs it is generally much less obvious.

Frogs in general are usually very low on the food web and can be a very important food source if they are at high abundance. This is possible with Corroboree Frogs, as reports prior to their decline stated they were highly abundant. However, they are also a poisonous species, so I'm not sure how many native animals could eat them.

A recent paper I read (I can find it if you like) was looking at the role of frog species loss on stream communities in Central or South America. The major finding was that stream turbidity increased as tadpoles are filter feeders and removed much of the algae etc. This could then have subsequent effects on aquatic plants and animals that rely on clear water.

Other than that, I am not aware of any research on the effects of frog species loss on the environment. I'm pretty definite there isn't any on Corroboree frogs. They've been focusing more on making sure they won't disappear.

Evan

David De Angelis
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Re: Environmental impact if the Corroboree frog becomes extinct?

Postby David De Angelis » Sun Oct 30, 2016 12:54 am

An update to an old thread... suggesting 'Occam's razor' might not always lead to the most likely answer when you're missing information!

I recently attended a talk by Gerry, and was struck by a historical tale of Corroboree Frogs in the Snowy Mountains. Before the ~80's, the frogs were so abundant they likely constituted the greatest biomass of any vertebrate where they occurred, and could be found in significant numbers across moss beds as well as under debris.

As Evan mentioned in 09, tadpoles can play an important role filtering gunk from the water, but it's possible the adults might have played a major role in the food chain also. Adult and sub-adult Corroboree Frogs feed mainly on small ants (Pengilley 1971), which have likely proliferated since the frog's decline. It's possible this might have resulted in changing the vegetation structure around the sphagnum bogs, favouring heath over grasses, and therefore influencing habitat availability for other plants and animals.

Finding more substantive evidence to support the hypothesis might prove tricky, although hopefully might come if Corroboree Frogs ever approach the numbers suggested by historical reports!


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