Albury-Wodonga

The biodiversity report identified a substantial number of biodiversity assets on the Albury-Wodonga campus; previously a significantly disturbed site. Specifically, the area to the north of the campus (the David Mitchell wetlands) was identified as 'functioning well again with good aquatic bird diversity and an apparently healthy aquatic vegetation community developing.'

This wetland provides a significant opportunity for a biodiversity/wildlife corridor running from west to east across the Albury-Wodonga Campus.

The below gallery show cases native fauna species identified on this campus through biodiversity monitoring activities.

Charles Sturt University extends our sincere gratitude to the following talented and very generous photographers for granting permission to publish their amazing images.

Thank you to: Simon B Cotterell, Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au, Jennifer Horsnell, Geoff Burrows, Dr Joanne Connolly, Tim Bergen, Alexandra Knight, David Hunter, Mark Stephenson, Cilla Kinross, Ian Kerr, Roger France and Ken Monson.

Wildflower images are sourced from canberra.naturemapr.org

Flagship species: Sloane's Froglet

Conservation status: Vulnerable (NSW) potentially endangered (National)

Sloane's Froglet Crinia sloanei, is a small ground-dwelling frog (around 15 to 20mm).  It can be readily identified by its physical characteristics and call.  They are hard to see and hide quickly, so the best way to identify a Sloane’s Froglet is from its call described as a short metallic 'chick chick chick'.  During winter and after heavy rain it makes a short chirp while floating on top of a water body. It calls during the day and at night.  This species has undergone a very severe reduction in population size over the last 30 – 40 years. There are very few left as it has experienced a greater decline over the last 40 years than other frog species in the same geographical areas.

Their conservation status is vulnerable (NSW) and potentially endangered (nationally). Populations of Sloane’s Froglets are restricted to Thurgoona, the riparian zone of Murray River from Howling to Corowa and there’s a small remnant population at Tocumwal.  The entire distribution are in areas of ongoing development and land use changes.

Remaining habitat largely occurs on small rural holdings and its survival is likely to be dependent on sympathetic management by private landholders, including Charles Sturt University.

The University is in the middle of the Albury suburb of Thurgoona.  The David Mitchell wetlands has one of the largest viable populations in the area, so Charles Sturt University is absolutely critically in persistence and viability of this species.

Critical habitat requirements – home and food

Sloane’s Froglet lives and breeds in temporary and permanent waterbodies including oxbows off creeks and rivers, farm dams, large and small natural wetlands, constructed frog ponds and temporary puddles. They breed in winter requiring shallow waterbodies (20cm deep).  They prefer wetlands containing riparian and aquatic vegetation.  They’ve been found in waterbodies containing grasses and reeds of medium height with small stem diameters such as couch, watercouch or the Common spikerush (Eleocharis acuta). Waterbodies with this vegetation are essential as they lays eggs attached to vegetation rather than a frothy mass on the surface of the water like some other frogs. They need connections between breeding and refuge sites. Inland Australia’s extremely variable climate means that for Sloane’s to survive, they must move across the landscape when it is wet. They use roadside drains, table drains, irrigation channels and inundated grasslands to move from one spot to another.

Key threats

  • Loss of habitat via urbanisation
  • Fragmentation and degradation of habitat and water quality through vegetation clearing.
  • Drought and longer term climate change impacts on the presence, persistence and seasonality of water at breeding sites. This in turn impacts on recruitment and persistence of populations.
  • Changes in water availability, flow and flooding regimes in creeks, rivers, floodplains and wetlands.
  • Habitat degradation from inappropriate cattle and sheep grazing
  • The chytrid fungus
  • Predation by introduced fish e.g. Plague Minnow

What Charles Sturt University is doing

In 2015 Alexandra Knight, Lecturer in Environmental Management, Charles Sturt University completed a PhD on the ecology and distribution of Sloane’s Froglet. Her work had significantly contributed towards raising the profile of this flagship species in the Thurgoona area. In partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, her work resulted in an Interim Habitat Guide and Management Guidelines for implementation by private, education and government landholders in the Thurgoona area.

Charles Sturt University has an ongoing partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage in determining plans for impactful actions to support the survival of this species on campus. These activities include:

  • identification and mapping of Sloane’s Froglet habitat hot spots in the biodiversity zones;
  • partnership with ILWS academics, Division of Facilities Management and Office of Environment and Heritage Save our Species program promoting habitat protection e.g. Sustainability Day 2017;
  • Division of Facilities Management and Sustainability at Charles Sturt grant funded project to connect, enhance, protect and expand habitat with works starting in 2017 to expand and connect ephemeral wetlands to provide breeding opportunities to improve reproductive output and recruitment;
  • four areas totalling 37.7 hectares at Charles Sturt University Albury-Wodonga have been identified and mapped as being of high conservation value and formally ratified in April 2017 as biodiversity zones.  These zones contain eight biodiversity hotspots containing viable populations of Sloane’s Froglet; and
  • further work needs to be done around the design and implementation of a monitoring program at sites across the species range to determine ongoing occupancy or persistence. This presents learning, teaching and research opportunities for students and staff to use the campus as a ‘living laboratory’.

How you can help:

  • participate in activities planting reeds and sedges around ephemeral ponds at Thurgoona – “If you build it, they will come!”
  • reduce habitat degradation through stock management, fencing and revegetation programs.
  • consider research opportunities around this species e.g. responses to predator control (invasive fishes), spatial connectivity and dispersal;
  • raise awareness around the importance of conserving this species; and
  • build a shallow pond (20cm) in your backyard if you live in Thurgoona.