The White-bellied frog (Geocrinia alba) is a small frog with a white belly as the name suggests, with a speckled brown or grey back. These frogs are very small reaching only about 25mm in length and 2gms in weight. This frog is a direct developer species which means that instead of the tadpoles free swimming, they develop inside a jelly-like egg mass in a burrow, and inside the egg the tadpoles go through all stages of their development before jumping out to be smaller versions of their parents.
Current Conservation Status
This frog is federally listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ and has declined in population by 30% over the last 20 years. It appears to be on the edge of extinction. The remaining populations are highly fragmented, and they are found only in creeklines near Margaret River and Witchcliffe (tributaries of the Lower Blackwood river), mainly found on private lands of which they prefer swampy flows and creeklines.
White bellied frogs are threatened by habitat destruction and disturbance (e.g. cattle grazing, weed invasion, feral animals such as pigs, clearing), inappropriate fire regimes, alterations in hydrology, decreased water quality, disease and changes in climate.
White-bellied Frog and Climate Change
SWCC Strategic Priority
The White-bellied frog is identified as a first order priority asset within SWCC’s NRM Strategy under the Aquatic Biodiversity theme.
Perth Zoo has successfully undertaken a captive rearing and translocation program as a way of restocking natural populations over the last few years.
Although the breeding program has successfully boosted numbers of Geocrinia in the wild, species survival is also threatened by key threats operating within the species habitat. SWCC, together with project partners (Lower Blackwood LCDC, DPaW and DoW) have implemented a range of on-ground activities to address some of the manageable threats.
A feral pig trapping and baiting program within the Lower Blackwood region has included monitoring at 37 sites, a feral pig trapping program and a series of bait trials to test the efficacy of the commercially available 1080 Pigout© feral pig bait. Through trapping from 2010 to 2012, over 50 pigs were removed from an area covering 37,500ha.
Blackberry and pasture weeds have been controlled to prevent encroachment on frog habitat. 65.5ha of the former and 37.5ha of the latter have been treated.
The impacts of stock and vehicle access on riparian areas have been addressed by installing over 28.2km of fencing, protecting over 1600ha of remnant vegetation. An off-stream water point and a concrete stock crossing have also been installed protecting over 4km of stream bank from stock and vehicle movement.
Over 6.5km of firebreaks on McLeod Creek and a conservation reserve have been re-established to improve fire vehicle access to key populations of G.alba and over 1500ha of remnant vegetation.
Over 65,000 seedlings have been planted by volunteers and contractors on private property to revegetate 28.8ha of stream bank.
A river action plan has also been developed for McLeod and Rushy Creeks to determine creek values and prioritise future on-ground activities.
Key reference sites have been monitored to establish baseline monitoring values for water quality and condition. This was completed through a SW Index of River condition assessment involving water quality sampling and identification of ecological values including habitat types (permanent pool, nurseries) and species present (vegetation, macro invertebrate assemblages, fauna and aquatic species). Sampling also assessed the presence of herbicide and fertiliser pollutants at key locations as these pollutants are known disruptors of growth and development in Geocrinia.
An annual monitoring program of wild and translocated Geocrinia populations was completed over the 2012 and 2013 monitoring periods. Under the program, DPaW maintained and monitored a series of temperature, humidity and rainfall loggers at a number of key Geocrinia sites which plot local environmental conditions across daily, seasonal and annual timescales to correlate with population monitoring results. DPaW also undertake a weekly monitoring program of all G. vitellina and selected G.alba sites, patrolling for activities such as unauthorised firewood cutting, illegal camping, off road vehicle use and drug growing activities which disturb and destroy frog habitat.
A number of workshops, a brochure and posters have been developed with advice for landholders and community groups on how they can help Geocrinia. The brochure ‘On the Edge of Extinction’ is available here.
- Department of Parks and Wildlife (2014). White and Orange-bellied Frogs (Geocrinia alba and Geocrinia vitellina) Recovery Plan. Wildlife Management Program No.59, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Perth, WA.
- Orange-Bellied And White-Bellied Frogs Recovery Plan, 2nd Edition 1995 by G Wardell-Johnson, J D Roberts, D Driscoll and K Williams for the Geocrinia Recovery Team.
- White bellied frog fact sheet – Perth Zoo
- Case Study: the White–Bellied frog (SWCC)