As both predators and prey, frogs are an important link in the food chain. Encouraging them to take up residency in your garden is beneficial and easy to do.
Of nearly 8000 species of frogs worldwide, Australia is home to more than 230. Hugely diverse, they can be found anywhere from the top of a tree in an inner-city backyard, to a metre underground in the desert as burrowing species look to escape the summer heat.
But all frogs play a really important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, both on a global scale and within your own patch. With numbers declining all over the world, it’s a good time to start thinking about building a safe and appropriate habitat to encourage Australia’s amphibians into your garden.
Why They’re Beneficial
Right throughout their life cycle, frogs are a really important link in the food chain. When they’re tadpoles, they feed on algae which helps keep your pond clean, and as adults, frogs will eat insects and other invertebrates. Frogs are a great way keep mosquitoes under control as they’ll also feed on any larvae that develop in the water. They’re an important source of food for native birds and lizards, too, which means encouraging frogs into your garden as both a predator and as prey can go a long way in maintaining important biodiversity.
Frogs are also a great indicator of the health of our ecosystems. They have a very thin and permeable skin – it’s how they breathe and consume most of their water intake – but it also means they’re hugely susceptible to things that can upset our ecosystems, like pesticides, pollution or chlorine used to treat water.
One of the biggest threats to frogs is loss of habitat. Whether they’re tree frogs or ground frogs, they all need moisture to survive, and with both the frequency and severity of drought on the rise, frogs need a safe place to live and breed more than ever.
As well as water to breed in and insects to feed on, frogs need shelter to survive the ever-present threat of becoming prey – and don’t discount the threat of domestic cats and dogs. Strappy natives such as lomandra, kangaroo paw or other native sedge grasses are great for frogs to hide within. Rocks, logs and other types of shelter is great, too, because a diverse habitat will attract other invertebrates which is their main food source. You could install a dim solar light to help attract insects, but a well-suited habitat and patience will do the trick. Varying depths of water around the outside of your pond provide necessary entry and exit points in and out of the water. And let frogs come to you, introducing non-native frogs or tadpoles to your pond can do more harm than good.
A suitable breeding habitat for frogs can be anything from a bucket or a bathtub dug into the ground through to a large-scale backyard pond, it just always needs to be reliably full. If you’re starting from scratch, identify a low-lying area of your yard to create the habitat to ensure there’s always a moist environment. Strappy plants are great, but diversity is better, so a selection of native plants of varying heights and density will all contribute to encouraging frogs.
Aquatic plants immersed in the water will also provide shelter and as well as important shade during the warmer months. It’s a good idea to provide some covered or shaded areas over the water while these plants are maturing, and be aware your pond needs at least one third of sunlight or your frogs won’t want to breed. If providing a breeding habitat for frogs is your priority, don’t be tempted to introduce fish into your ponds, or your tadpoles will become fish food. And make sure it’s covered with wire mesh to prevent both birds using your pond as a convenience store as well as the risk of kids drowning in the water.