Conserving nature's chorus: Local and landscape features promoting frog species richness in farm dams

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Biological Conservation


Print: 0006-3207 Electronic: 1873-2917


Agricultural ponds, Freshwater biodiversity, Artificial wetlands, Sustainable agriculture, Biodiversity credits


Biodiversity | Other Animal Sciences | Water Resource Management


Habitat loss is a key factor in the ongoing freshwater biodiversity crisis. A promising way to help tackle the rapid decline in freshwater biodiversity is to improve the potential for artificial wetlands to provide habitat for aquatic wildlife. Farm dams (also known as agricultural ponds) are among the most abundant waterbodies in agricultural landscapes and can act as “oases” against droughts for many species. Despite their prominent role in agriculture, predictive models to evaluate their ecological potential are yet to emerge. Here we use a continental-scale data set of 104,013 audio recordings from citizen scientists to identify and locate 107 species of frogs near 8800 Australian farm dams. Frog species are among the most threatened taxa on earth and we asked: What characteristics promote higher frog species richness at farm dams? We found that the highest values of frog species richness were at old ( > 20 years) farm dams of intermediate size (0.1 ha in surface area), with small or medium rainfall catchments ( < 10 ha), and situated near other freshwater systems or conservation sites. The relationships shown here are highly generalisable and applicable on a continental scale. By identifying quantifiable features improving the ecological value of farm dams, we help identify “win-win” outcomes for agricultural productivity and conservation. In the future, “biodiversity credit” policies could incentivise large-scale ecological restoration by rewarding individuals who invest in enhancing their farm dams to support and promote local biodiversity.