Monitoring of Rare and Threatened Species


The Waterfall frog formerly occurred throughout the Wet Tropics between Paluma and Mungumby Creek. It is now absent from most upland sites.

Most rare and threatened species are by definition, not abundant and many may also occupy difficult to access habitats. Due to their conservation priority, they are often subject to monitoring programs and assessment of their distribution and abundance. For many species, monitoring populations and locating individuals is a significant time and resource consuming task that greatly limits our understanding of their status and their ecology. eDNA technology can greatly improve the efficiency of monitoring and surveys programs for such rare and threatened species. A much wider area can be assessed for the presence of these species and sampling can be readily undertaken in difficult to access locations. In addition, being a non-invasive technique, it does not involve disruption to individuals or their habitats and so can be repeated frequently.

The Common Mistfrog was once common in rainforests north of the Herbert River in the Wet Tropics. It is now listed as ‘Endangered’ and has almost disappeared from most sites above 400m.

At JCU, eDNA primers have been developed and are being used to survey endangered rainforest frog species and the rare freshwater sawfish. A number of frog species have suffered alarming declines in their range and abundance in the rainforests of North Queensland and several are now considered to be threatened or endangered. These species occur in high elevation, mountainous rainforest streams and are rather cryptic, such that surveys for them are time and resource-intensive. We have developed eDNA sampling techniques to survey for remnant populations across the vast stream network of the Wet Tropics rainforests and to track existing populations.

Freshwater Sawfish may potentially occur in all large rivers of northern Australia, but their distribution is currently unknown. They face multiple threats including net fishing and habitat modification which have been identified as contributing to the rapid decline of sawfish populations.

The freshwater sawfish, Pristis pristis, has a wide distribution across much of northern Australia. However, they are rarely caught, are difficult to catch and occur in remote, hard-to-access rivers of northern Australia. Due to costs and logistics, many of the rivers that are within their known range and are likely to contain populations of this species, have never been surveyed for their presence. eDNA technology allows for these habitats to be more cost-effectively assessed for the presence of sawfish. Sawfish are also regularly considered in impact assessments for development proposals. eDNA surveys are a means of undertaking wide-ranging distributional surveys in such studies, and of locating sites where more intensive on-ground netting surveys can be conducted.

Contact us for more information



Prof. Damien Burrows


Phone:+61 7 4781 4262

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