Struggling skink

The endangered Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leuraensis) is in serious trouble, according to the latest report by the Swamped by Threats project.

The swamp-dependent skink is found only in the Blue Mountains region, and recorded numbers at a key habitat site have dropped to zero in the latest monitoring survey conducted between February and March this year.

“We have been monitoring swamps on the Newnes Plateau since 2012, and this is the first year where we have come back with a zero count at any of the sites,” said Central Tablelands Local Land Services officer, Huw Evans.

Fortunately, the skinks at three of the six key monitoring sites are faring better, with numbers remaining relatively stable.

Fire, drought, and damage to groundwater aquifers, are listed as key threats to the swamp ecosystems that are the focus of the Swamped by Threats project.

All of the six monitoring sites were impacted by fire and drought over the 2019-20 summer.

“However at the Carne West swamp, where we couldn’t find a single skink in our survey traps this year, hydrological surveys have demonstrated a dramatic drop in groundwater levels,” explained Huw.

Data shows cumulative rainfall was relatively consistent across all six monitoring sites, but the swamps with the lowest skink numbers have suffered significant groundwater depletion.

“The key issue has been the loss of water exacerbated by recent fires,” said Huw.

While the recent findings of zero skinks at the Carne West site are concerning, the Swamped by Threats team are doing their best to protect habitat where possible.

“We are working with Forestry Corporation to divert access tracks away from the most fragile habitat areas and we have removed invasive weeds that smother native species.”

“We are also working on remediation of structures such as culverts and roadworks to reduce damaging sediment flows into the swamps.”

Central Tablelands Local Lands Services is the lead agency in the Swamped by Threats project working with stakeholders, community groups, and project partners including the Biodiversity and Conservation Division of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The ‘Swamped by Threats’ project has been funded by the New South Wales Government’s Environmental Trust Saving Our Species Partnership Grants Program.

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