Book SectionsTable of Contents
The Problem Puddle Power Frog-Friendly Backyard Why are we concerned about amphibians?
Wetlands - function/type Wetland issues
How to help amphibians
Community Green Plans
Concerned researchers first raised the issue of declining amphibian populations at the First World Congress of Herpetology in 1989 in Canterbury, England. People have documented the decline or disappearance of amphibian species around the world. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force is examining the nature and extent of amphibian declines to make recommendations that will preserve amphibian biodiversity. It is normal for populations to fluctuate but in some instances, numbers have not recovered. Even more worrying is the decline of amphibians in pristine areas within protected nature reserves. Environments are always changing and, over a long time, there is a succession of plants and animals that change or adapt to the new conditions. However, when habitats change quickly, plants and animals find themselves in a place where they cannot live. You can help create a mosaic of habitats at different stages of succession by protecting existing wetlands, restoring local hydrologies (areas where water once flowed or was retained), and constructing new wetland habitats.
The usual response to water in our neighborhoods is to remove it as fast as possible. Few people ever question why we do not see water after it rains, or where that water goes. Even fewer people are aware of the many species of plants and animals that depend on standing water for survival. Frogs and toads have disappeared because they cannot find water in which to lay their eggs. Many ponds dry before tadpoles develop their legs and lungs, and move onto land. Those that do leave the water cannot find the moist microhabitats essential for their survival.
"Frogs and toads have disappeared because they
cannot find water in which to lay their eggs."
Let us relate the story of one pond. In the spring, when
snow melted, a puddle formed behind a local school. Spring
rains kept the small puddle full but it would be dry by late June.
Water remained in the deeper areas and provided a watery
refuge for the animals that lived here. This unassuming puddle
was actually wild life habitat!
The importance of this habitat was brought home to our group studying the pond when we discovered thousands of toad tadpoles scudding about in the water. Despite efforts of park and school authorities to fill the little puddle, the local toad population persisted in breeding in this wetland remnant. In talking with the children we learned that toads were found throughout their new community. To our knowledge there were no other "ponds" in the area meaning all the toads originated in this puddle. We mapped the locations of the toad sightings so we could see the extent of their summer wanderings. When the students realized that all these toad sightings in their backyards were dependent on toads breeding in this single insignificant wetland, they had a first hand lesson in the importance of even small ponds. More importantly, this was THEIR pond and these were their toads! I can assure you that toads never had such dedicated guardians.
It is our hope that we can all share the sense of steward ship and pride these students displayed upon realizing the importance of their pond. They alone could determine the fate of a species for their whole neighborhood. This is but one example of individuals realizing the importance of wetlands as a community resource. We all have a role to play in developing frog-friendly backyards.
This guide to backyard habitat is perhaps the first step in a long journey to protect and, through our gardening practices, improve or restore wild life habitat in our communities.
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