Red hot frogs: identifying the Australian frogs most at risk of extinction

Date: 20, Aug, 2021
Author(s):   Geyle, H.M., Hoskin, C.J., Bower, D.S., Catullo, R., Clulow, S., Driessen, M., Daniels, K., Garnett, S.T., Gilbert, D., Heard, G.W., Hero, J-M., Hines, H.B., Hoffmann, E.P., Hollis, G., Hunter, D.A., Lemckert, F., Mahony, M., Marantelli, G., McDonald, K.R., Mitchell, N.J., Newell, J.D., Roberts, D., Scheele, B.C., Scroggie, M., Vanderduys, E., Wassens, S., West, M., Woinarski, J.C.Z., Gillespie, G.R.
Publisher: Pacific Conservation Biology

More than a third of the world’s amphibian species are listed as Threatened or Extinct, with a recent assessment identifying 45 Australian frogs (18.4% of the currently recognised species) as ‘Threatened’ based on IUCN criteria. We applied structured expert elicitation to 26 frogs assessed as Critically Endangered and Endangered to estimate their probability of extinction by 2040. We also investigated whether participant experience (measured as a self-assigned categorical score, i.e. ‘expert’ or ‘non-expert’) influenced the estimates. Collation and analysis of participant opinion indicated that eight species are at high risk (>50% chance) of becoming extinct by 2040, with the disease chytridiomycosis identified as the primary threat. A further five species are at moderate–high risk (30–50% chance), primarily due to climate change. Fourteen of the 26 frog species are endemic to Queensland, with many species restricted to small geographic ranges that are susceptible to stochastic events (e.g. a severe heatwave or a large bushfire). Experts were more likely to rate extinction probability higher for poorly known species (those with <10 experts), while non-experts were more likely to rate extinction probability higher for better-known species. However, scores converged following discussion, indicating that there was greater consensus in the estimates of extinction probability. Increased resourcing and management intervention are urgently needed to avert future extinctions of Australia’s frogs. Key priorities include developing and supporting captive management and establishing or extending in-situ population refuges to alleviate the impacts of disease and climate change.