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The Future of Frogs in the Face of Fire

The effective population sizes of brown tree frogs crashed following the Black Saturday fires and had not fully recovered at the end of the study. Credit: D. Paul/Museums Victoria

The effective population sizes of brown tree frogs crashed following the Black Saturday fires and had not fully recovered at the end of the study. Credit: D. Paul/Museums Victoria

By Jane Melville & Dominque Potvin

The increasing risk of bushfires due to climate change is escalating the risk of extinction for frogs in Australia’s south-east.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Walking through the bush on a hot summer’s day in south-eastern Australia, you can’t help being aware of the lurking threat of bushfires. This awareness is part and parcel of living in this region where the hot, dry summers have frequent days of extreme bushfire risk.

In the tall forests of Victoria, severe bushfires are a reasonably common event, with at least five significant fires in the past 100 years. Alarmingly, climate change models are predicting increases in the frequency and ferocity of bushfires in this region in the future. Like other ecological disturbances, bushfires can have profound impacts on both individual species and the composition of whole biological communities.

Our research sought to find out how severe bushfire events impact the long-term survival of frogs in the tall forests of south-eastern Australia. Frogs are in trouble globally, with up to 40% of species facing imminent extinction. In Victoria the situation is bleak, with 50% of Victoria’s 30 frog species listed as threatened.

The threats frogs are facing include habitat destruction and fragmentation, climate change and disease. However, whether bushfires should also be included in this list, and what impact fires might have on the long-term viability of frog populations, is currently unknown.

In February 2009, the Kinglake region of Victoria was devastated by...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.