Discovering threatened species in the Billabong Yanco region

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Recent surveys of the condition of natural resources within the Billabong Yanco region funded by Murray Local Land Services (MLLS) have had the added bonus of discovering two rare and threatened species, Trout cod and Southern Bell Frogs. Both species have suffered widespread declines in their distribution and abundance across NSW including the study region.

“We had no idea they were in the system and now we know we can manage the system to maintain or enhance their populations” MLLS Project Officer Anthony (Rex) Conallin said.

Local communities have long appreciated the value and importance of the Billabong Yanco system. Max Bryce a keen fisherman who lives on the Billabong Creek just out of Jerilderie says:

“the Creek is well known by fisherman far and wide to have plenty of big Murray cod and even catfish which are rarely seen in southern NSW and Victoria these days.”

Despite great local knowledge, scientific information (evidence) to show the system’s significance and to guide future investment and management was lacking. Community stakeholders were really concerned that decisions being made about the future of the system were underestimating its importance particularly with regard to water recovery. Thus, the surveys were commissioned with funds from MLLS and community stakeholders to find out what plants and animals are living in the system (i.e. diversity of species) and how well they are doing (i.e. condition of the populations). Increased knowledge like this ensures natural resource management is implemented more efficiently and effectively and it also helps to attract more funding and resources.

Clayton Sharpe holding a good sized Trout cod sampled from the mid-Yanco Creek during the distribution surveys. Photo credit: Clayton Sharpe.

For example, the discovery of Trout cod in the upper Yanco during baseline surveys led to a targeted study into their distribution in the system, which confirmed they were abundant and inhabited at least 40 kilometres of the Yanco Creek and were also in a small section of the Colombo Creek.

The original fish baseline surveys were considered so important by community stakeholders that they co-funded it and further trout cod studies to determine if the population is self-sustaining (spawning and recruiting) as there are only two other self-sustaining wild populations in NSW (Murrumbidgee River near Narrandera Murray River near Tocumwal). Co-funders included stakeholders including YACTAC (Yanco Creek and tributaries Advisory Council) and the Conargo Shire Council (now Edward River Shire). The survey has already influenced water planning, with plans to use environmental water to enhance the population.

Southern Bell Frog sampled from a wetland adjacent to the mid-Yanco Creek. Photo credit: Amelia Walcott.

The discovery of Southern Bell Frogs during wetland condition surveys was also very exciting. The frogs were found in two very healthy wetlands with lots of habitat, particularly aquatic vegetation.

They were also associated with wetlands with long wet cycles which suits their long larval development requirements. This information provides justification for wetland rehabilitation measures to restore a diversity of habitats (stock exclusion, revegetation) and the need for environmental water to lengthen wetting cycles to ensure frog recruitment.

Knowing the species which reside in these systems is critical to making management decisions. James Maguire  Senior Environmental Water Management Officer at Office of Environment & Heritage says:

“this kind of information is gold for managers. Now we know what’s there and their condition we can target them with management interventions such as water for the environment and better still we have a baseline that we can measure the effectiveness of our interventions from.”

Murray Local Land Services (MLLS) received funding for this project from the Federal Government’s National Landcare Program and Catchment Action NSW, a NSW State Government natural resource management initiative.

For more information, please contact:

Anthony (Rex) Conallin
Murray Local Land Services
(03) 6051 2200

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