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Waterhole fences may halt cane toad invasion

The Age

Thursday February 24, 2011


DENYING cane toads access to man-made water sources could reduce the potential area toads colonise in Australia by almost 1 million square kilometres.According to Australian research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. yesterday, the toad's expansion into the dry areas of northern Australia, including the ecologically sensitive Pilbara, could be halted by installing barriers preventing the toads from reaching water.Researchers from Melbourne University, Sydney University and the University of Western Sydney erected fences around three artificial waterholes in the Northern Territory. They found toads outside the fenced areas died within 72 hours, while radio-tagged toads at the control sites had free access to water and survived.Cane toads have no biological mechanism to store water, to which they need regular access. They fill up at waterholes increasing their body weight by up to 40 per cent."The farm bores are essentially the stepping stones that the toads were using to assist them on their invasion into the dry areas," said Melbourne University's Dr Tim Dempster. "So the theory behind this is that we are removing the stepping stones."The Pilbara in the north of Western Australia contains a string of natural waterholes, and if the toads reach the area they are almost certain to colonise it. But by blocking access to water the toads could be kept out of the Pilbara and reduce the final range of the cane toad in Australia by 38 per cent.

© 2011 The Age

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