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Acid frogs returning to wetlands and breeding as part of rehabilitation program

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Strategically located wetlands are helping to support vulnerable frog species at a master-planned community on the Sunshine Coast.

New data, compiled during the past year, has shown that the size of the habitat to protect the vulnerable wallum sedge frog – part of the acid frog species – has increased by an additional 18 hectares at Aura.

The wallum sedge frog initiative, conducted during the past 12 years, has included the creation of more than 150 crafted frog ponds along designated movement corridors in the Stockland community.

Stockland senior development manager Mark Stephens said incorporating wetlands across the conservation land as part of Aura’s design had helped to protect the wallum sedge frog (Litoria olongburensis) and other acid frog species.

“Over 150 hectares of the 700 hectares of future conservation lands at Stockland Aura has been earmarked as important habitat rehabilitation for acid frogs, which includes specially constructed wetlands and foraging areas,” he said.

“The former pine plantation lands were heavily degraded and it’s great to see the rehabilitation efforts deliver strong results and a place where these frogs can call home.

“Now that we’re making good progress in rehabilitating the land, we are seeing acid frogs not only return to the wetlands but also breeding, which is a really exciting marker of the rehabilitation program.

Frogs are being regularly monitored across the wetlands.

“When compared to our surveys in February and March of 2023, our researchers have reported the habitat supporting the wallum sedge frog has increased by 18 hectares over the past year. That’s 180,000sqm, or the equivalent of 144 Olympic swimming pools, of additional frog habitat.

“The thriving frog habitat sits alongside the Stockland Aura community and demonstrates that development can strike a good balance between people and nature.”

Frog habitat restoration expert Dr Mark Bayley, who has worked with the Stockland team since 2012, said that, to his knowledge, habitat for the wallum sedge frog had never been successfully created on this scale.

“Acid frogs prefer a wetland that only holds water some of the time and has a unique type of water, one that is naturally low in pH and high in tannin levels,” he said.

“Prior to this project little was known on how this water occurred, or rather, how it was made,” he said.

It’s believed that habitat for the wallum sedge frog has never been created on this scale.

Dr Bayley, with the support of the research team, uncovered the delicate interplay that creates these conditions.

“After numerous soil and water interaction experiments, it was discovered that high organic matter drives pH down within wetlands and clay aquitards across the site can hold the water in the ponds for about the right time,” he said.

Despite acid frog habitat often taking up to five years to establish the proper vegetation and water quality to successfully house the species, the Aura frog ponds, some of which were created only two years ago, are showing early signs of success.

“Annual surveys conducted over the past two years have documented the highest number of acid frog species within the movement corridors and created ponds to date,” he said.

Mr Stephens said the team was delighted with the results.

“Through the collaborative effort of working with the community, environmental groups and international experts, we are confident we are rehabilitating the old, degraded pine plantation land into a functioning ecosystem for frog species, all of which will form permanent conservation lands once the Stockland Aura development is complete,” he said.

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