Yellow-spotted Bell Frog (Litoria castanea) and Peppered Frog (Litoria piperata) Recovery Plan

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, July 2001
ISBN 0 731 36275 6

6.0 Recovery plan implementation

The TSC Act requires that a public authority must take any appropriate measures available to implement actions included in a recovery plan for which they are responsible. In addition, the TSC Act specifies that public authorities must not make decisions that are inconsistent with the provisions of the plan. The public authority responsible for the implementation of this recovery plan is the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The EPBC Act specifies that a Commonwealth agency must not take any action that contravenes a recovery plan.

6.1 Critical habitat

The TSC Act makes provision for the identification and declaration of critical habitat. Under the TSC Act, critical habitat may be identified for any endangered species, population or ecological community occurring on NSW lands. Once declared, it becomes an offence to damage critical habitat (unless the TSC Act specifically exempts the action) and a species impact statement is mandatory for all developments and activities proposed within critical habitat.

At present, no critical habitat has been identified or declared for the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog. This recovery plan proposes consideration of declaration of critical habitat under the TSC Act for this species in the event that an extant population is found in NSW. The Peppered Tree Frog is currently listed as a vulnerable species and is therefore not eligible for identification of critical habitat. This recovery plan proposes a review of the listing of the Peppered Tree Frog in Year 2 and Year 5 of the plan.

Under the EPBC Act, critical habitat may be registered for any nationally listed threatened species or ecological community. When adopting a recovery plan the Federal Minister for the Environment must consider whether to list habitat identified in the recovery plan as being critical to the survival of the species or ecological community. It is an offence under the EPBC for a person to knowingly take an action that will significantly damage critical habitat (unless the EPBC Act specifically exempts the action). This offence only applies to Commonwealth areas. However an action which is likely to have a significant impact on a listed species is still subject to referral and approval under the EPBC Act.

This recovery plan (section 5) identifies those habitat features currently known to be critical to the survival of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog as required by the EPBC Act.

6.2 Environmental assessment

The New South Wales Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act) requires that consent and determining authorities, and the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife, as a concurrence authority, consider relevant recovery plans when exercising a decision-making function under Parts 4 and 5 of the EPA Act. Decision-makers must consider the conservation strategy outlined in this plan when considering a proposed development or activity that may affect either the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog or Peppered Tree Frog.

Any other action not requiring approval under the EPA Act, and which is likely to adversely affect the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog or the Peppered Tree Frog, may be licensed under Part 6 of the TSC Act.

As the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog are both listed nationally under the EPBC Act, any person proposing to undertake actions likely to have a significant impact on either species should refer the action to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment for consideration. The Minister will then decide whether the action requires EPBC Act approval. This is in addition to any State or Local Government approval requirement specified above for the NSW EPA Act.

Administrative guidelines are available, from Environment Australia, to assist proponents in determining whether their action is likely to have a significant impact. In cases where the action does not require EPBC Act approval, but will result in the death or injury of a member of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog and the member is in, or on a Commonwealth area, a permit issued by the Commonwealth Minister under the EPBC Act, will be required.

7.0 Management issues

7.1 Threats and reasons for decline

The causes of the decline and apparent disappearance of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog are not clear. Tyler (1997) listed threats that are currently under consideration. These factors include:

  • disease;
  • increased ultraviolet radiation;
  • drought;
  • predation of eggs and tadpoles by introduced fish species;
  • chemical use; and
  • habitat destruction/modification.

An additional factor in the decline of the species may have been over-collection of specimens by research institutions. Significant numbers of Yellow-spotted Bell Frogs were collected on the New England Tableland in the early 1970s. The Peppered Tree Frog has not been definitely recorded in the wild since the collection of the type series in 1973. This recovery plan recommends, in the event that either species is rediscovered in the wild, or animals thought to be either species discovered, that specimens not be vouchered without the specific approval of the NPWS.

7.2 Social and economic consequences

This recovery plan recommends consideration of potential impacts on the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog by consent and determining authorities considering activities in areas of potential habitat or at known historical sites of the species.

Estimated costing for the implementation of recovery actions has been costed at $52000. If extant populations are located an additional cost of $47000 will occur. The recovery plan could have social benefits for local communities, increasing general public awareness of natural heritage values on the New England Tableland and South Eastern Highlands.

7.3 Biodiversity benefits

The widely publicised decline and extinction of a number of amphibian species at a state, national and international level is a cause of serious concern for biodiversity conservation.

The management actions outlined in this recovery plan will assist in definitively determining the conservation status of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog. Through awareness of the fate of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog, the profile of all threatened species will be raised in the general community. This in turn will lead to greater opportunities for the conservation of threatened species and increased protection of biodiversity.

8.1 Survey

An expert survey on the New England Tableland for both the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog was undertaken, during suitable environmental survey conditions, between 1994 and 1996 (Mahony 1996). The survey covered known historical sites, nearby areas of suitable potential habitat and other areas across the region. No sightings were recorded.

A survey for the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog, including 16 historic sites and approximately 30 areas of potential habitat on the New England Tableland and South Eastern Highlands between 1992 and 1996 by the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group Inc. (FATSG), recorded no sightings (Ehmann 1997). Similarly, a FATSG survey for the Peppered Tree Frog which included five historic sites and approximately 20 areas of potential habitat on the New England Tableland recorded no sightings (Ehmann 1997).

Expert surveys of the majority of known historical sites of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog in the ACT and nearby areas of NSW on the South Eastern Highlands between 1985 and 1995 recorded no sightings (Osborne et al. 1996). Surveys of the northern section of the South Eastern Highlands for extant populations of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog in 1999/2000 were unsuccessful in locating any extant populations; however, photographic records of the previous occurrence of Litoria castanea-like animals in these areas were located (Mahony et al. 2000).

8.2 Community involvement programs

A community awareness program was undertaken on the New England Tableland between 1996 and 1997 to assist members of the public (in particular landowners and amateur naturalists) in identifying the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog. Although the level of public concern and positive feedback appeared to be very high throughout the region no sightings were reported to NPWS following the distribution of over 2000 leaflets, a number of public displays and local media coverage.

A five-year community awareness program was launched by NPWS in 1999, for the northern section of the South Eastern Highlands, focusing on the Bathurst and Orange areas. This program aims to assist members of the public in identifying the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog. An information sheet, with identification and habitat details, has been produced and distributed (see Appendix 1). The information provided on this sheet also includes a brief outline of appropriate habitat protection measures.

8.3 Protection of habitat

A number of areas of habitat previously supporting the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog in NSW are protected in NPWS estate including Little Llangothlin and Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserves on the New England Tableland and Namadgi National Park on the South Eastern Highlands. Areas previously supporting the Peppered Tree Frog protected in NPWS estate include Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and Mann River Nature Reserve.

Habitat protection measures for the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog within production forests have been incorporated into the Terms of the Threatened Species Licence for the Upper and Lower North East Regions of the Forestry and National Park Estate Act 1998 negotiated for the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (NPWS and SFNSW 1999).

Predictive habitat distribution models for the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog were developed in the Upper and Lower North East regions as part of the Comprehensive Regional Assessment process.

8.4 Genetic studies

A preliminary genetic study to clarify the systematic status of the Peppered Tree Frog was unable to determine whether the species is genetically distinct from other species in the leaf green tree frog complex (Donnellan et al. in prep.). Further work involving mitochondrial DNA analysis is required. No genetic study of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog has yet been undertaken.

9.0 Species' ability to recover

Given the current information base available, the ability of these species to recover is unknown. Neither has been definitely recorded since the 1970s. Successful recovery of these species, to meet the criteria of the TSC Act for downlisting, is largely dependent on the identification and protection and any extant populations.

10.0 Recovery objectives

The overall objective of this recovery plan is to clarify the current status of the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the Peppered Tree Frog, and to maximise the opportunity for the viability of these species in the wild. Proposed measures to increase the level of habitat protection provide a safeguard in the event that currently unidentified populations survive.

Specific objectives for the first five years of this Recovery Plan are listed below.

  • Objective 1: to assess the current status of both species through community involvement and scientific research;
  • Objective 2: to encourage the location and identification of any remaining extant populations in the wild;
  • Objective 3: to resolve the identity of possible Peppered Tree Frog populations recently recorded;
  • Objective 4: to increase protection of potential habitat through community awareness and involvement;
  • Objective 5: to effectively protect and manage any extant populations which may be located in the future;
  • Objective 6: to determine agents which contributed to the species' decline; and
  • Objective 7: to resolve the taxonomic status of the New England and Southern Tablelands forms of The Yellow-spotted Bell Frog and the taxonomic status of the Peppered Tree Frog.