In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.
|EPBC Act Listing Status||Listed as Vulnerable|
|Recovery Plan Decision||
Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
|Adopted/Made Recovery Plans||
National Recovery Plan for the Southern Bell Frog Litoria raniformis (Clemann, N. & G.R. Gillespie, 2012) [Recovery Plan].
|Other EPBC Act Plans||
Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis (Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006o) [Threat Abatement Plan].
|Policy Statements and Guidelines||
EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.14: Significant impact guidelines for the vulnerable growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis) (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009f) [Admin Guideline].
Background Paper to the EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.14: Significant Impact Guidelines for the vulnerable growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009g) [Admin Guideline].
Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Frogs. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.3 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010h) [Admin Guideline].
Distribution Map: Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009h) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
Documents and Websites
|State Listing Status||
|Non-statutory Listing Status||
|Scientific name||Litoria raniformis |
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.
Scientific name: Litoria raniformis (Keferstein 1867)
Common name: Growling Grass Frog
Other common names: Southern Bell Frog, Green and Golden Frog, Warty Frog, Warty Bell Frog, Green or Warty Swamp Frog
Growling Grass Frog individuals exhibit significant genetic divergence between coastal and inland regions, however, no proposal has been made to split the taxa (Voros et al. 2010).
The Growling Grass Frog is one of the largest frog species in Australia. It reaches up to 104 mm in length, with females usually larger (60-104 mm) than males (55-65mm) (Barker et al. 1995; Tyler 1978; Tyler and Barrie 1996). Growling Grass Frogs vary in colour and pattern but in general are olive to bright emerald green, with irregular gold, brown, black or bronze spotting. Their backs are warty and usually have a pale green mid-dorsal stripe. The eardrum is pronounced. A cream or yellow stripe underlined by a dark brown stripe runs from the nostril, through the eye, above the inner ear and down the sides of the body to the groin as a dorso-lateral fold (Barker & Grigg 1977, Robinson 1993). On their bellies, Growling Grass Frogs are white and coarsely granular. During the breeding season males may become yellow or dark grey/black under the throat. The groin and posterior of the thighs are turquoise blue (DEC NSW 2005).
Growling Grass Frogs lack webbing on their fingers but the toes are almost fully webbed. Toe discs are small and approximately equal in width to the digits. These frogs possess small vomerine teeth that are attached to a bone in the roof of the mouth and are situated between the internal openings of the nostrils in the roof of the mouth. These teeth are used for holding prey, which is then swallowed whole (Barker et al. 1995).
In the past, the Growling Grass Frog was distributed across a large area of south-east Australia, including Tasmania, at altitudes of up to 1300 m (Osborne et al. 1996 in Mahony 1999).
The Growling Grass Frog's range has declined over time with the most pronounced decline evident in NSW (Mahony 1999; NSW DEC 2005a). The species has disappeared from a number of sites along the Murrumbidgee River (Mahony 1999) and there are no recent records from the Monaro district near the Victorian border.
The species once occurred throughout the Southern Tablelands and was also recorded on the Central Tablelands as far north as Bathurst (Ehmann & White 1997 in Mahony 1999). However, Ehmann & White (1997) noted that the species had disappeared from sites in the central and southern highlands.
NSW and the ACT
In NSW and the ACT, the range of the species was centred on the Murray and Murrumbidgee River valleys and their tributaries. The species is currently widespread throughout the Murray River valley (Mahony 1999) and has been recorded from six Catchment Management Areas in NSW: Lower Murray Darling, Murrumbidgee, Murray, Lachlan, Central West and South East (NSW DEC 2005a).
The species was previously widespread across Victoria and was absent only from the western desert regions and the eastern alpine regions (Littlejohn 1963, 1982; Hero et al. 1991 in Mahony 1999). The species has disappeared from most of its former range across Victoria (NSW DEC 2005a). The species persists in isolated populations in the greater Melbourne area, in the south-west of Victoria and a few sites in central Victoria and Gippsland (Atlas of Victorian Wildlife database cited in Clemann and Gillespie 2004).
Survey's undertaken for Litoria raniformis within the Merri Creek Corridor, Melbourne, Victoria, and adjacent catchments between December 2001 and March 2003 revealed 208 Growling Grass Frogs at 43 sites (Heard et al 2004). Surveys occurred at Merri Creek and Kalkallo Creek associated with Hume Highway upgrade works (Ecology Partners 2008c). In 2009, two (possibly three) Growling Grass Frogs were observed at Cowies Creek (Hynes & Aboltins 2009). A targeted survey of Cowies Creek in 2009–2010 detected a previously unknown, large population of approximately 47 adults (Aboltin 2010). There is a stable population at Fraser Swamp, adjacent to the Glenelg River near Balmoral (MWH 2010).
In South Australia, there are three distinct groups of records of the Growling Grass Frog. One group is located in the far south-east of the state (to near Keith) and adjoining Victorian populations, one group along the Murray River from Victoria to the coast, and a small group in the Mt Lofty Ranges (South Australian Museum database cited in NSW DEC 2005a; Tyler 1978). The latter group probably represents an unintentionally introduced population originating from captive stock and is likely to have now died out (J. Van Weene undated, pers. comm. cited in Clemann and Gillespie 2004). Growling Grass Frog populations in the Murray lower lakes (Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert and the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges tributaries) are known to have declined significantly due to drought and have not recovered since water flows have returned in 2007 (Mason & Hillyard 2011).
In Tasmania, the Growling Grass Frog occurred broadly across the north and east of the island and on Bass Strait Island (Brook 1979 in Mahony 1999). The Southern Bell Frog's range has apparently contracted in north-west, central and south Tasmania within the last 15 years (Tyler 1997) and the species has changed from abundant to scarce at Launceston.
The current extent of occurrence for the species is approximately 45 000 km² (Mahony 1999).
The Growling Grass Frog was introduced to New Zealand in 1867 where it is now widely distributed (Gill and Whitaker 2001).
The Frog and Tadpole Study (FATS) Group of NSW undertook surveys for Growling Grass Frogs in NSW between 1991 and 1996 as part of the 'ENDFROG' project (NSW DEC 2005a). This project was aimed at collecting baseline data on 25 species of endangered and rare frogs in NSW, including the Growling Grass Frog (Ehmann 1997).
In 1998 and 1999, Jansen and Healey (2003) failed to locate the Growling Grass Frog during a survey of wetlands on the floodplain of the Murrumbidgee River between Gundagai and Hay.
A road-based survey for the species was conducted in the Coleambally Irrigation Area (CIA), NSW, in February and March, 2001 (Pyke unpub. data cited in NSW DEC 2005a). A distance of 253 km was surveyed and Growling Grass Frogs were recorded at 32 sites within the CIA (NSW DEC 2005a).
Australian Museum conducted another survey in 2001 in the Coleambally Irrigation Area, southern NSW, which involved road-based searches, spotlighting, call identification and tadpole counts. Adult Growling Grass Frogs and tadpoles were found to be widespread on farms throughout the area (NSW DEC 2005a).
A targeted survey for the species was carried out in several state forests and other crown-timber lands in south-western NSW in 1994 and 1995 as part of a general threatened fauna species survey . The species was recorded in a permanent lagoon vegetated with grasses (Poaceae) and sedges (Cyperaceae) in Euston State Forest and an opportunistic record was made at Lake Victoria State Forest (Webster et al. unpubl. cited in NSW DEC 2005a; Leslie undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
Also, surveys for the Green and Golden Bell Frog (L. aurea) have been conducted in eastern NSW by State Forests at 16 sites, three of which were within the range of the Growling Grass Frog however L. raniformis was not found (Lemckert 1996).
Hamer and Organ (2006) conducted surveys for the Growling Grass Frog in the Pakenham region of Victoria, targeting an area within the Pakenham Urban Growth Corridor. A roadside census was undertaken over five nights in October and November 2005, during warm, still conditions when the Growling Grass Frog was known to be calling. A mark-recapture study was undertaken between November 2005 and February 2006 at 28 waterbodies in the study area. Tadpole surveys were also conducted, using fish traps at five waterbodies where calling males were recorded. The Growling Grass Frog was recorded at 41 sites throughout the study area where the species had not previously been recorded.
In 2010, Beacon Ecological conducted a targeted survey for the Growling Grass Frog at Cowies Creek, Geelong. The species was detected at eight survey sites and a nearby wetland appears to be an important breeding site for the species in the local area (Aboltins 2010). A targeted survey was conducted during 2010 by Biosis Research (2010) in the Taylors Lakes area, 27 km north of Melbourne. Two males were recorded in a dam immediately north of the study area which is potentially a breeding site.
The Growling Grass Frog has been recorded across a suite of land tenures including freehold, leasehold, Crown land, conservation estate, State Forest and other public (NSW DEC 2005a). The species is known from:
NSW - Bondi State Forest, Boomanoomana State Forest, Mulwala State Forest, Berry Jerry State Forest, Euston State Forest, Woomargama State Forest, Buckingbong State Forest, Cocoparra National Park, Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.
Victoria - Victoria State Forest, Grampians National Park, Wilson's Promontory National Park, Sale Common State Game Reserve, Ewings Marsh Flora Reserve, Westgate Park (Parks Victoria), Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park.
South Australia - Bool Lagoon Game Reserve, Messent Nature Reserve.
Tasmania - Narawantapu National Park (formerly known as Asbestos Range National Park), Mt William National Park, Freycinet National Park, St Helens Conservation Area, Waterhouse Conservation Area, Tamar River Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamar Conservation Area and Seymour Conservation Area and Waterhouse Protected Area (NSW DEC 2005a; Threatened Species Unit 2001; Tyler 1997).
The species is also known from farm areas throughout its range, disused council landfill sites in Melbourne, Victoria, and the Woodstock Lagoon Conservation Area near Launceston, Tasmania (Tyler 1997). The species is known to occur on Commonwealth land at the Puckapunyal Military area near Seymour, Victoria, (Defence Environmental Consortium 2001).
This species is found mostly amongst emergent vegetation (Robinson 1993), including Typha sp. (bullrush), Phragmites sp. (reeds) and Eleocharis sp.(sedges), in or at the edges of still or slow-flowing water bodies such as lagoons, swamps, lakes, ponds and farm dams (NSW DEC 2005a). The Growling Grass Frog can be found floating in warmer waters in temperatures between 18–25°C.
Additionally, this species occurs in:
- clays or well-watered sandy soils;
- open grassland, open forest, and ephemeral and permanent non-saline marshes and swamps;
- montane eucalypt forest, dry schlerophyll forest in coastal Victoria;
- steep-banked water edges (like ditches and drains) and gently graded edges containing fringing plants; and
- formerly, areas of high altitudes (Ehmann & White 1997; NSW DEC 2005a).
Submerged vegetation is important habitat for breeding success as it provides egg-laying sites, calling stages for males, and food and shelter for tadpoles. Grassland provides habitat for foraging, dispersal and shelter, and may also provide overwintering sites for Growling Grass Frogs (Clemann & Gillespie 2004; Hamer & Organ 2006). Hamer and Organ (2006) found that large and relatively permanent waterbodies, with a high proportion of emergent vegetation cover, were more likely to be occupied by the Growling Grass Frog.
The Growling Grass Frog can also inhabit agricultural and higher rainfall pastoral lands so long as permanent and non-permanent water sites are available with dense emergent or fringing vegetation (Ehmann & White 1997; S. Wassens pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
The wetland systems that the Growling Grass Frog occupies in NSW consists of a mosaic of permanent and ephemeral waterbodies which flood in the spring of most years. Within these habitats, the greater the water depth and aquatic vegetation cover, the higher the probability that the Growling Grass Frog will be present. In the Lowbidgee Irrigation Area, NSW, Growling Grass Frogs occur in a series of small water bodies.The species is thought to retreat to these small water bodies during the dry season (between January and August). When the area is flooded during the wet season, these small waters bodies flood to form a large wetland, which is used by the species for breeding, tadpole habitat and tadpole morphosis (NSW DEC 2005a; Wassens 2005; Wassens et al. 2008).
In the Coleambally Irrigation Area, NSW, the Growling Grass Frog occurs in irrigation channels and crops (NSW DEC 2005a). The species also occurs in lignum shrublands, black box and river red gum woodlands (S. Wassens undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a) and alongside rivers in the southern parts of NSW (NSW DEC 2005a).
Basking Habitat Growling Grass Frogs are active during both day and night throughout the warmer months and can be seen basking out of water amongst vegetation or on rocks and logs. In Tasmania, it is the only frog to exhibit this behaviour (Threatened Species Unit 2001). Growling Grass Frogs are known to bask in filtered sunlight, that is, under partly cloudy conditions or in deep vegetation (Ehmann & White 1997). The Growling Grass Frog is frequently found basking on grassy banks near water (Courtice & Grigg 1975). Its behaviour during winter is not well known, although it is speculated that it hibernates in warm, moist areas such as the mud at the bottom of ponds, under logs, rocks and debris or beneath thick vegetation (Ayers et al. 1996; G. Pyke undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a, S. Wassens undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a). Radio-tracking of some individuals has suggested that the species winter under dense vegetation (S. Wassens undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
The Growling Grass Frog is dependent upon permanent freshwater lagoons for breeding. The ideal breeding habitat is the shallow part of lagoons (up to approximately 1.5 m) where there is generally a complex vegetation structure. Breeding sites in Tasmania often contain vegetation communities dominated by emergent plants such as water ribbons (Triglochin) and spikerush (Eleocharis) and submerged plants such as water milfoil (Myriophyllum), marsh-flower (Villarsia), and pondweed (Potamogeton). However, other plant communities can form equally suitable habitat (Threatened Species Unit 2001).
The variety of habitats this species utilises for refuge includes soil cracks, fallen timber, debris and dense vegetation on low, frequently inundated floodplains (Cogger 2000; S. Wassens undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
The minimum age at which females are known or suspected to first reproduce was thought to be 2—3 years (Frogs Australia Network 2005a). However, recent modelling by Heard and colleagues (2012) suggest that sexual maturity may be attained within 43 days for males and 113 days for females. Heard and colleagues (2012) support this modelling with observational evidence that the Growling Grass Frog is able to reproduce in their first breeding season following metamorphosis.
Growling Grass Frogs generally breed between November and March, following local flooding and a marked rise in water levels (from rain or other sources) which triggers calling in breeding males. Breeding usually occurs in still or slow moving water. Field surveys for this species conducted within the Merri Creek Corridor in 2004 (Heard et al. 2004), determined that vegetation composition is a significant determinant of breeding habitat quality for the Growling Grass Frog; all sites where reproduction was recorded displayed extensive growth of either emergent or submergent vegetation. Most breeding sites located in recent surveys in NSW were overflow areas such as oxbows, billabongs or levee swamps, which were subject to excessive disturbance by grazing (sheep and cattle) or agricultural run-off (Ehmann and White 1997), and irrigated crops (NSW DEC 2005a). It has previously been thought that Growling Grass Frog tadpoles were able to overwinter, however, lab studies have indicated that they cannot survive water temperatures below 15° C (Mann et al. 2010). It has therefore been proposed that individuals who breed early (November or December) provide the best chance for metamorphs to emerge before the onset of cold weather (Mann et al. 2010).
Females lay an average of approximately 3400 eggs, with a maximum of approximately 4500 (Germano & White 2008). Eggs are pigmented and contained within a floating jelly raft that eventually breaks up and sinks. Egg-laying occurs within days of flooding and tadpoles hatch 2-4 days later. Metamorphosis of tadpoles generally takes around 3 months but may take up to 12 months in some circumstances (Anstis 2002; Pyke 2002). Metamorphis closely resemble adults in colouration (Anstis 2002).
Growling Grass Frogs feed mainly on terrestrial invertebrates such as beetles, termites, cockroaches, moths, butterflies and various insect larvae (M. Christy undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a). They sometimes prey on other frogs, including younger frogs of their own species (Barker and Grigg 1977; Hero et al. 1991). They also feed on vertebrates such as lizards, snakes and small fish (Martin and Littlejohn 1982).
This species is described as being a 'sit-and-wait' predator, that is, they do not actively hunt for food but rather sit and wait for prey to move into feeding range (M. Christy undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a). The Growling Grass Frog is also believed to be a nocturnal feeder (G. Pyke undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
The Growling Grass Frog is a highly mobile species, capable of moving up to one kilometre in 24 hours (K. Jervis undated, pers. comm. cited in Robertson et al. 2002; S. Wassens undated, per. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a). Recent research suggests that, in areas other than the semi-arid/riverine part of the species' range, there are interactions between neighbouring populations (Clemann and Gillespie 2004).
When the Growling Grass Frog is restricted to small, permanent waterbodies, dispersal is low indicating high levels of site fidelity with individuals tending to move shorter distances. When occupying ephemeral waterbodies, the Growling Grass Frog has significantly higher levels of dispersal, indicating lower site fidelity, with individuals moving large distances (Wassens 2005).
The Growling Grass Frog is similar in appearance to the Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea) but may be distinguished by the following features. The dorsal skin of the Growling Grass Frog has a covering of large warts, while the Green and Golden Bell Frog has a smooth back (Cogger 2000). The Growling Grass Frog has a green mid-dorsal stripe, which is not present in the Green and Golden Bell Frog. The Growling Grass Frog also has more developed toe webbing that the Green and Golden Bell Frog and although both species have blue skin on the groin and posterior surface of the thighs, this colouring on the Growling Grass Frog is less brilliant (Courtice & Grigg 1975).
Yellow-spotted Bell Frog (L. castanea) is also similar in appearance to the Growling Grass Frog but may be distinguished by the presence of large yellow spots in the groin and thigh, which gives L. castanea its common name (NSW DEC 2005a).
The methods that have successfully been used in the past to survey the Growling Grass Frog are visual encounter surveys, call surveys, night driving and larval sampling (UC 2003). Amphibian surveys are usually conducted during the peak of the breeding season when frogs are easy to spot. This approach may lead to important non-breeding habitat being overlooked, such as fringing vegetation along irrigation canals which are used by the Growling Grass Frog as over-winter habitat (Wassens et al. 2008).
During surveys conducted for the Growling Grass Frog in NSW, by the Frog and Tadpole Study (FATS) Group between 1991 and 1996, searches of historic and potential new sites within or near the known range of this species were carried out during wet weather or flooding conditions (Ehmann & White 1997). At night, sites were located by listening for male choruses and active frogs were located by torchlight. In wet weather, active frogs were also located during drives along roads. During the day, basking frogs and suitable habitat were examined (NSW DEC 2005a).
Males usually call while floating in water among reeds, between August and April (Robinson 1993). The call is a growling 'waaah waaah waaah' that is similar to the sound of a distant motor boat or motorbike and is usually of about a one-second duration. When Growling Grass Frogs are first picked up or handled they may also emit an anguished scream or distress call and often release large amounts of acrid mucous presumably as a protective mechanism against potential predators (DEC NSW 2005a).
They have keen eyesight in daylight and as they are approached they will jump into the water with a distinctive 'plop'. This is often the only way to know they are there. At night, however, under torchlight, they can be approached with relative ease (Threatened Species Unit 2001).
In a 2002/03 field survey for the species in the Merri Creek Corridor, Melbourne, Victoria, spotlight and daytime searches were conducted at survey sites (Heard et al. 2004). Visual inspection, call recognition and limited active searching (turning surface debris) were carried out. Spotlight surveys were carried out between 8:30 pm and 3:00 am and involved scanning the surface of a water body and focusing on aquatic vegetation. Growling Grass Frogs were detected by direct encounter or by identification of the yellowish-orange reflection from the frogs' eye-shine under torchlight (Frogs Australia Network 2005b; Heard et al. 2004).
During this survey, funnel and bait traps were the best available technique by which to measure and compare changes in frog reproduction across time and space. Commercially-available, collapsible bait-traps made of nylon netting were used to determine the presence and relative abundance of tadpoles at monitoring sites (Heard et al. 2004). Traps were also used at the completion of each spotlight survey and collected the following morning (generally within 12 hours) (Heard et al. 2004). Fluorescent light sticks (cylume sticks - Omniglow Corporation, USA), were placed in traps to attract tadpoles. Light-based attractants have been used previously to attract aquatic invertebrates and fish, but their ability to attract amphibians is unknown (Heard et al. 2004).
For more complex surveys which require an analysis of the age structure of the population, toe-clipping is a technique which has been used to successfully determine the age of this species (Mann et al. 2010) as there is an absense of a strong size-age relationship. This is a destructive technique which should only be used when age data is absolutely necessary. Care must be taken not to remove several toes from any one individual, as there appears to be an increased risk of mortality for individuals who are missing numerous toes (Mann et al. 2010).
The NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (2005a) identified the following list of threats to the Growling Grass Frog:
Habitat loss and fragmentation
Habitat loss and fragmentation are considered to be the primary threat to Growling Grass Frog populations. The draining and infilling or flooding of permanent and non-permanent wetlands plus their adjoining watercourses and vegetation removes critical movement corridors, refuge and breeding habitat and displaces the species from their natural habitat. Artificially irrigated areas and farm dams have replaced some habitat, but these do not provide shelter and foraging habitat (NSW DEC 2005a). Over-grazing by cattle and the burning of canal edges has the capacity to reduce the vegetation cover. This may impact upon Growling Grass Frog populations as the species preferentially occupies habitats with a high percentage of aquatic and fringing vegetation cover (Wassens 2005).
Overgrazing by livestock around the edges of wetlands disturbs essential habitat by destroying the surrounding vegetation and affecting the quality of the water (Jansen & Healey 2003; Tyler 1993). The removal of aquatic vegetation destroys refuge habitat and shelter for tadpoles. The clearing of terrestrial vegetation, fallen logs and ground debris surrounding wetlands removes essential habitat (NSW DEC 2005a). The practise of dredging to remove aquatic vegetation and spraying or burning vegetation along the edges of irrigation canals is likely to be an important factor in limiting the distribution of the Growling Grass Frog in an irrigation landscape (Wassens et al. 2008).
Altered flooding regimes
The number of potential breeding sites for the Growling Grass Frog along natural drainage systems has been reduced through local changes in land contours as a result of drainage earthworks (NSW DEC 2005a). Local extinctions of Growling Grass Frog coincide with a significant reduction in flood frequency during the early 1980s. Local extinctions also occur in wetland systems that have been converted to permanent water storages (Wassens 2005).
Chytrid fungus, a water-borne pathogen responsible for the Chytridiomycosis (an infectious disease which affects amphibians worldwide), is widespread in frog populations in eastern Australia and has recently been detected in the Growling Grass Frog and the closely related Green and Golden Bell Frog (Berger et al. 1999). Chytridiomycosis disease is believed to be a significant cause of death in some frog species in recent years and is also found in a small proportion of apparently healthy frogs and tadpoles (Berger et al. 1999). Chytridiomycosis has been recorded in four regions of Australia, namely the east coast, south-west Western Australia, Adelaide, and more recently Tasmania. This highly virulent fungal pathogen of amphibians is capable at the minimum of causing sporadic deaths in some populations, and 100 per cent mortality in other populations (DEH 2006o).
Predation by introduced fish
In controlled laboratory and field experiments (Morgan and Buttemer 1996; Pyke and White 2000) introduced Mosquito Fish or Plague Minnow (Gambusia holbrooki) have preyed on eggs, fry and tadpoles of the Green and Golden Bell Frog (L. aurea) and may potentially prey on the eggs and tadpoles of the Growling Grass Frog (Ehamnn and White 1997; Sadlier and Pressey 1994). Although there is some overlap in range and habitat requirements of the Growling Grass Frog and Mosquito Fish, there is no evidence to show that predation by the Mosquito Fish is directly responsible for the decline of Growling Grass Frog population numbers (review in McKay et al. 2001). For example, in a 2002/03 survey of the species in the Merri Creek Corridor (Heard et al. 2004), eight monitored breeding sites of the Growling Grass Frog were found to be inhabited by moderate to high numbers of frog metamorphlings, even though these sites contained Mosquito Fish. There is evidence to show that the impact of Mosquito Fish predation is magnified when it is combined with other threatening processes such as habitat degradation and salinity (Morgan and Buttemer 1996). According to Gillespie & Hero (1999), a rigorous assessment of the impacts of fish other than Gambusia on the Growling Grass Frog is required.
Long periods of drought may act in combination with other threats to cause declines of the Growling Grass Frog population. In the Southern Tablelands, NSW, the decline of the species coincided with a series of severe droughts between 1978 and 1980 (Osborne et al. 1996). This is thought to be due to the fact that the species has a very narrow window of opportunity for breeding and any stochastic event (i.e. drought) that prevents animals from breeding for more than a year is likely to have profound detrimental effects on the population (Mann et al. 2010).
Chemical pollutions of water bodies
Herbicides, insecticides or other such chemical substances that may be introduced inadvertently or intentionally into the species' habitat may be lethal to frogs and tadpoles (Ehmann and White 1997; Robertson et al. 1994).
Because this species has a semi-aquatic lifestyle and semi-permeable epidermis that is used for gas exchange with the environment, amphibians are particularly susceptible to toxins. Toxic compounds in various biocides have been demonstrated to cause death, morbidity and/or abnormalities in many frog species (Mann and Bidwell 1999; Tyler 1989).
Salinisation of key water bodies, including billabongs along the Murray River, is a potential threat to the Growling Grass Frog. Research has shown that the Green and Golden Bell Frog (L. aurea) tadpoles are unable to survive in salinity levels higher than 8-9 parts per thousand (seawater is 35 ppt) (Christy and Dickman 2002; G. Pyke undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
Growling Grass Frogs frequently cross roads, particularly in rice growing areas where rice bays and supply channels are adjacent to roads and major highways, therefore road kills of this species may have a significant impact on the Growling Grass Frog population (NSW DEC 2005a).
Ambient ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation, levels of which have increased due to anthropogenic depletion of the ozone layer (Kerr and McElroy 1993), are known to have an adverse impact on amphibians (Blaustein et al. 1994; 1995; 1997). As Growling Grass Frogs are frequently active during the day, exposure to harmful levels of UV-B radiation has been postulated as a potential cause of decline (Tyler 1997). The deleterious effects of UV-B radiation on the larvae of a congeneric taxon have been demonstrated (Broomhall et al. 2000), although the affected subspecies (L. verreauxii alpina) occurs at high altitude where the effects of UV-B radiation may be more pronounced (Clemann and Gillespie 2004).
Previous recovery actions undertaken for the Growling Grass Frog include:
- surveys carried out in the species known range;
- research and monitoring in NSW, South Australia and Victoria;
- forestry prescriptions to mitigate the impacts of forestry operations;
- State Forest surveys;
- the preparation of a 'Hygiene Protocol for the Control of Disease in Frogs' (NSW NPWS 2001) to reduce the transfer of disease-causing pathogens between frog populations; and
- providing information on the Growling Grass Frog to the community (NSW DEC 2005a).
The following projects have received Government funding grants for conservation and recovery work benefiting the Growling Grass Frog:
The Friends of the Riverland Parks Inc received $2 600 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2003-04 to increase Riverland community participation in a frog census through an awareness campaign run by partner organisations, and to increase the number of recordings and knowledge of the distribution and abundance of the species within the River Murray corridor.
Nagambie Landcare Group Inc (Vic) received $28 800 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002-03, part of which was for the surveying and mapping of threatened species to determine priorities for on-ground works, including habitat protection and enhancement.
The Merriang District Landcare Group (Vic) received $4 500 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005-06, part of which was for monitoring and recording the Growling Grass-frog.
Ducks Unlimited Australia Pty Ltd trading as Wetland Care Australia received $ 17 133 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2007-08, part of which is for habitat restoration. The target population of Growling Grass Frogs is small and isolated and is of extremely high conservation significance. It is restricted to nine ha of a single swamp. This project aims to recreate habitat in a neighboring, previously grazed swamp that has been fenced off and placed under a conservation agreement. Natural recolonisation or translocation would then be able to establish additional sub-populations.
Nimming Pollen League (NSW) received $45 455 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2008-09 for the `Drought Refuge for Endangered Growling Grass Frog' project. The project will provide waterholes and dams in the Nimmie-Caira area of the Lowbidgee Floodplain to act as refuge for the Growling Grass Frog during periods of prolonged drought.
A detailed biological review of the Growling Grass Frog species is currently being prepared by Dr Graham Pyke of the Australian Museum. Dr Pyke has extended his research program on the Green and Golden Bell Frog to include the Growling Grass Frog (NSW DEC 2005a).
There are several other research projects underway for this species in NSW including:
- an investigation by the Australian Museum of the impacts of rice-growing on the ecology of the Growling Grass Frog population (A. Tiwari undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a, G. Pyke undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a);
- a toxicological study by CSIRO Land & Water in Adelaide to investigate pesticide impacts on the survival of the species (A. Tiwari undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a); and
- a PhD project at Charles Sturt University investigating the conservation biology of the species and the dispersal, spatial dynamics and habitat use by the species (S. Wassen undated, pers. comm. cited in NSW DEC 2005a).
In South Australia, the species is being studied by Dr Harold Ehmann (National Parks and Wildlife). In Victoria, research has been carried out by Gerry Marantelli (Amphibian Research Centre), Peter Robertson and Geoff Heard (Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd), Dr Michael Scroggie (Department of Sustainability and Environment) and Heath Butler (Melbourne Zoo) (NSW DEC 2005a).
The Department of the Environment and Heritage has developed a threat abatement plan which aims to :
- Prevent amphibian populations or regions that are currently chytridiomycosis-free from becoming infected by preventing further spread of the amphibian chytrid within Australia,
- Decrease the impact of infection with the amphibian chytrid fungus on populations that are currently infected.
The Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis can be found at http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/chytrid/index.html
In 2001 the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service prepared the 'Hygiene Protocol for the Control of Disease in Frogs'.
The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.
|Threat Class||Threatening Species||References|
|Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation||The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].|
|Climate Change and Severe Weather:Droughts:Drought||Litoria raniformis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nm) [Internet].|
|Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Decline in habitat quality||Litoria raniformis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nm) [Internet].|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation||Gambusia holbrooki (Eastern Gambusia, Mosquitofish)||
The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Predation by the non-native fish Gambusia holbrooki on small Litoria aurea and L. dentata tadpoles. Australian Journal of Zoology. 30:143-149. (Morgan, L.A. & W.A. Buttermer, 1996) [Journal].
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation||Cyprinus carpio (European Carp, Common Carp)||The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease||
Litoria raniformis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nm) [Internet].
Personal Communication (Osborne, W., 2001) [Personal Communication].
Chytridiomycosis in amphibians in Australia (Speare, R & L. Berger, 2000) [Internet].
|Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality||Litoria raniformis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nm) [Internet].|
|Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Changes in hydrology leading to rising water tables and dryland salinity|
|Pollution:Pollution:Deterioration of water and soil quality (contamination and pollution)|
|Transportation and Service Corridors:Roads and Railroads:Vehicle related mortality|
Aboltins, A (2010). Cowies Creek Amphibian Survey and Targeted Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) Survey, Summer 2009-2010. A report prepared by Beacon Ecological for the City of Greater Geelong. EPBC Referral 2009/5001. Geelong, Victoria: City of Greater Geelong.
Anstis, M. (2002). Tadpoles of South-eastern Australia. A guide with keys. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.
Ayers, D., S. Nash & K. Baggett (Eds) (1996). Threatened Species of Western New South Wales. Hurstville: NSW NPWS.
Barker, J., G.C. Grigg. & M.J. Tyler (1995). A Field Guide to Australian Frogs. Chipping Norton, NSW: Surrey Beatty & Sons.
Berger, L., R. Speare & A. Hyatt (1999). Chytrid fungi and amphibian declines: overview, implications and future directions. In: Campbell, A., ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 23-33. [Online]. Canberra: Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/frogs.html.
Biosis Research (2010). Flora, Fauna and Habitat Hectare Investigation of the Calder Freeway/Kings Road Interchange and Kings Road Duplication, Taylors Lakes, Victoria. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Biosis Research.
Blaustein, A.R., P.D. Hoffman, D.G. Hokit, J.M. Kiesecker, S.C. Walls & J.B. Hays (1994). UV repair and resistance to solar UV-B in amphibian eggs: A link to population declines?. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. 91:1791-1795.
Brook, A.J. (1979). Atlas of frogs of Tasmania. Dept Zool., Uni. of Melbourne.
Broomhall, S.D., W.S. Osborne & R.B. Cunningham (2000). Comparative effects of ambient ultraviolet-B radiation on two sympatric species of Australian frogs. Conservation Biology. 14(2):420-427.
Christy, M.T. & C.R. Dickman (2002). Effects of salinity on tadpoles of the green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea). Amphibia-Reptilia. 23:1-11.
Clemann, N. & G.R. Gillespie (2004). Draft Recovery Plan for Litoria raniformis 2004-2008. Canberra, Department of the Environment and Heritage.
Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia - 6th edition. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.
Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2006o). Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/chytrid.html.
Courtice, G.P. & G.C. Grigg (1975). A taxonomic revision of the Litoria aurea complex (Anura: Hylidae) in southeastern Australia. Australian Zoologist. 18:149-163.
Defence Environmental Consortium (2001). Puckapunyal Military Area Environmental Management Plan. Defence Estate Organisation (Dept of Defence). PPK Environment & Infrastructure Pty Ltd.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009f). EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.14: Significant impact guidelines for the vulnerable growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis). [Online]. Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/litoria-raniformis.html.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009g). Background Paper to the EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.14: Significant Impact Guidelines for the vulnerable growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis. [Online]. Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/litoria-raniformis.html.
Ecology Australia (2009). Upgrade of Manks Road Bridges, Dalmore - Targeted Surveys and Net Gain Assessment. EPBC Referral 2009/5106. Project 08-79. Prepared for VicRoads. Fairfield, Victoria: Ecology Australia.
Ecology Partners (2008c). Hume Freeway / Donnybrook Road Interchange Works - Growling Grass Frog Litoria raniformis Monitoring 2007-2008. VicRoads - Northern City Projects. Ecology Partners Pty Ltd.
Ehmann, H. (1997). Threatened frogs of New South Wales: Habitats, status and conservation. Sydney: Frog and Tadpole Study Group of New South Wales (FTSG NSW).
Ehmann, H. & White, A. (1997). Southern Bell Frog, Litoria raniformis. In: H. Ehmann, ed. Threatened Frogs of New South Wales: Habitats, Status and Conservation. Page(s) 194-200. Frog & Tadpole Study Group of NSW, Sydney.
Frogs Australia Network (2005a). Litoria raniformis. Australian Frog Database. [Online]. Available from: http://www.frogsaustralia.net.au/frogs/display.cfm?frog_id=180.
Frogs Australia Network (2005b). Frog Spotting. [Online]. Available from: http://www.frogsaustralia.net.au/conservation/frog-spotting.cfm. [Accessed: 03-Apr-2006].
Germano, J. & H. White (2008). Litoria raniformis (Southern Bell Frog): clutch size. Herpetological Review. 39:461-462.
Gillespie, G. (2001). Personal Communication.
Gillespie, G.R. & J.M. Hero (1999). Potential impacts of introduced fish and fish translocation on Australian amphibians. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 131-144. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Gillespie, G.R., W.S. Osborne & N.A. McElhinney (1995). The Conservation Status of Frogs in the Australian Alps: a Review. Report to Australian Alps Liaison Committee.
Hamer, A. & Organ, A. (2006). Distribution, Habitat Use, Movement Patterns and Conservation Management of the Growling Grass Frog Litoria raniformis throughout the Pakenham Area, Pakenham, Victoria. Report for Department of Sustainability and Environment. Ecology Partners Pty Ltd.
Heard, G. W., M. Scroggie & B. Malone (2012). The life history and decline of the threatened Australian frog, Litoria raniformis. Austral Ecology. 37:276-284.
Heard, G., P. Robertson & M. Scroggie (2004). The Ecology and Conservation Status of the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) within the Merri Creek Corridor: Report to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, East Melbourne, Victoria.
Hero, J-M., M. Littlejohn & G. Marantelli (1991). Frogwatch Field Guide to Victorian Frogs. [Online]. Melbourne, Victoria: Department of Conservation and Environment. Available from: http://frogs.org.au/frogs/index.html.
Hynes, L. & A. Aboltins (2009). Flora and Fauna Survey for a proposed Dam at Cowies Creek Reserve, 299 Anakie Road, Lovely Banks, Victoria. A report prepared by Beacon Ecological for the City of Greater Geelong. EPBC Referral 2009/5001.
Jansen, A. & M. Healey (2003). Frog communities and wetland condition: relationships with grazing by domestic livestock along an Australian floodplain river. Biological Conservation. 109:207-219.
Kerr, J.B. & C.T. McElroy (1993). Evidence for large upwards trends of ultraviolet-B radiation linked to ozone depletion. Science. 262:1032-1034.
Lemckert, F. (1996). Surveys for the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea by the State Forests of New South Wales. Australian Zoologist. 30:208-213.
Littlejohn, M.J. (1963b). Frogs of the Melbourne area. Victorian Naturalist. 79:296-304.
Littlejohn, M.J. (1982). Amphibians of Victoria. Victorian Yearbook. 85:1-11.
Mahony, M. (1999). Review of the declines and disappearances within the bell frog species group (Litoria aurea species group) in Australia. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and disappearances of Australian frogs. Page(s) 81-93. Canberra: Environment Australia.
Mann, R. & J. Bidwell (1999). Toxicological issues for amphibians in Australia. In: Campbell, A., ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Canberra: Environment Australia.
Mann, R. M., R. V. Hyne, P. Selvakumaraswamy & S. S. Barbosa (2010). Longevity and larval development among southern bell frogs (Litoria raniformis) in the Coleambally Irrigation Area - implications for conservation of an endangered frog. Wildlife Research. 37:447-455.
Mason, K. & K. Hillyard (2011). Southern Bell Frog Monitoring (Litoria raniformis) in the Lower Lakes. South Australia Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board . Government of South Australia.
McFadden, M. (2004). Herpetofauna Division, Taronga Zoo, Proceedings of the Third National Conference of Australian Frog Groups.
Morgan, L.A. & W.A. Buttermer (1996). Predation by the non-native fish Gambusia holbrooki on small Litoria aurea and L. dentata tadpoles. Australian Journal of Zoology. 30:143-149.
MWH (2010). Fraser Swamp Growling Grass Frog Monitoring Report. Prepared for Glenelg Hopkins CMA.
NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW DEC) (2005a). Southern Bell Frog (Litoria raniformis) Draft Recovery Plan. [Online]. Sydney, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). Available from: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/recoveryplanDraftSouthernBellFrog.pdf.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2001d). Threatened Species Management Information Circular No. 6. Hygiene Protocol for the Control of Disease in Frogs. [Online]. Sydney, NSW: NPWS. Available from: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/hyprfrog.pdf.
Osborne, W. (2001). Personal Communication.
Osborne, W.S., M.J. Littlejohn & S.A. Thomson (1996). Former distribution and apparent disappearence of the Litoria aurea complex from the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Australian Zoologist. 30(2):190-98.
Pyke, G.H. (2002). A review of the biology of the Southern Bell Frog Litoria raniformis (Anura: Hylidae). Australian Zoologist. 32 (1):pp. 32-48.
Pyke, G.H. & A.W. White (2000). Factors influencing predation on eggs and tadpoles of the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea by the introduced Plague Minnow Gambusia holbrooki. Australian Zoologist. 31(3):496-505.
Pyke, G.H. & A.W. White (2001). A review of the biology of the Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea). Australian Zoologist. 31(4):563-598.
Pyke, G.H., A.W. White, P.J. Bishop & B. Waldman (2002). Habitat use by the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea in Australia and New Zealand. Australian Zoologist. 32(1):12-31.
Ramamurthy, S. (2003). Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) Survey, Environmental Management Plan and Summary of Vegetation Surveys at the Proposed Waterhaven Residential Development, Victoria.
Robertson, P., G. Heard & M. Croggie (2002). The ecology and conservation status of the growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) within the Merri Creek Corridor, Interim report: distribution, abundance and habitat requirements. Report to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, East Melbourne, Victoria. Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd and the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research.
Robinson, M. (1993). A Field Guide to Frogs of Australia. Chatswood, NSW: Reed.
Sadlier, R.A. & R.L. Pressey (1994). Reptiles and amphibians of particular conservation concern in the western division of New South Wales: a preliminary review. Biological Conservation. 69:41-54.
Speare, R & L. Berger (2000). Chytridiomycosis in amphibians in Australia. [Online]. Townsville, Queensland: Rainforest CRC & School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University. Available from: http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/phtm/PHTM/frogs/chyspec.htm.
Threatened Species Unit (2001). Listing Statement: Green and Golden Frog Litoria raniformis. [Online]. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Tas. Available from: http://www.dpiwe.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/Attachments/SJON-5BH4KT/$FILE/Litoria%20raniformisLS.pdf.
Tyler, M.J. (1978). Amphibians of South Australia. SA Museum, Adelaide.
Tyler, M.J. (1989). Australian Frogs. Page(s) 153-162. Victoria: Penguin Books Australia Ltd.
Tyler, M.J. (1993). Frogwatch: to shun a silent spring. Australian Natural History. 24:pp. 22-29.
Tyler, M.J. (1997). The Action Plan for Australian Frogs. [Online]. Wildlife Australia. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/frogs/index.html.
Tyler, M.J. & D.J. Barrie (1996). First fossil record of the hylid frog Litoria raniformis (Keferstein). Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 120:69.
University of Canberra (UC) (2003). Survey Standards for Australian Frogs. Canberra, Australia: Applied Ecology Research Group, UC.
Voros, J., T. Bertozzi, L. Price & S. Donnellan (2010). Identification of Southern Tablelands bell frogs (Litoria aurea species complex). South Australian Museum.
Wassens, S. (2005). The use of space by the endangered Southern Bell Frog (Litoria raniformis) in the semi-arid region of New South Wales, Australia. M.Sc. Thesis. Thesis submitted to Charles Sturt University, Bachelor of Applied Science (environmental science) Honours.
Wassens, S., Watts, R. J., Jensen, A. & Roshier, D. (2008). Movement patterns of southern bell frogs (Litoria raniformis) in response to flooding. Wildlife Research. 35:50-58.
This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.
Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Litoria raniformis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 8 Mar 2014 01:00:16 +1100.