Investigating behaviour for conservation goals: Conspecific call playback can be used to alter amphibian distributions within ponds

Melanie Sandra James, Michelle Pirrie Stockwell, John Clulow, Simon Clulow, Michael Joseph Mahony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Conspecific attraction can prevent occupancy of restored or created habitats by limiting dispersal to unoccupied areas. This may cause problems for threatened taxa where habitat restoration and creation programmes are implemented as part of species recovery plans. Studies on birds have found that the introduction of artificial communication cues such as calling can increase occupancy of restored habitat. The endangered green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) has a number of behavioural traits which suggest conspecific attraction occurs via a vocal mechanism, including a loud conspicuous call and large chorusing aggregations. To date, attempts to repopulate restored and created habitat through natural immigration and active translocation of tadpoles and juveniles have been met with limited success for this species. We used L. aurea to determine if distribution could be manipulated via conspecific attraction using artificial communication cues. We placed speaker systems in uninhabited areas of five inhabited ponds across two locations and broadcast calls of L. aurea to see if we could manipulate distribution into previously unoccupied pond areas. Surveys undertaken before and after broadcast indicate that we successfully manipulated L. aurea distribution for adults increasing both occupancy and calling around the speaker locations. This occurred in four of five replicate ponds over three months of experimental treatment, but controls remained low in abundance. We suggest that manipulation of distribution via conspecific attraction mechanisms could be a useful conservation tool for endangered amphibian habitat restoration and creation programmes, resulting in increased occupancy and programme success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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