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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

Fears for England’s frog and toad population after drought

Fears for England’s frog and toad population after drought

Frog and toad populations in England have been devastated by climate breakdown, conservationists fear, after the drought dried up their breeding ponds last year.

Usually at this time of year, ponds are full of jelly-like frog and toadspawn. But conservationists have found the habitats to be bare, with no amphibians or their young to be seen.

Kathy Wormald, the chief executive of the amphibian charity Froglife, told the Guardian: “We are receiving a lot of reports of no amphibians – frogs, toads and newts. We are also getting reports from our toad patrollers of lower numbers migrating, but we will not know for definite until later in the year when we have all of their data.

“We have noticed a steady increase in low numbers being reported by the public over the past few years. We think that the variable climate patterns, with warmer winters but then cold well into the spring months, when they would migrate to the ponds, is having an impact on their behaviour patterns.”

Rare natterjack toads have been struggling due to changing weather patterns, with populations devastated.

Emily Lake, who looks after the toads at the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Changing weather patterns and lack of rain means we are seriously worried for the long-term survival of the natterjack toad colony at Red Rocks nature reserve on the Wirral.

“Rare and protected natterjacks live in the sand dunes, spawning in shallow freshwater pools, fed by rainwater and runoff from surrounding land, and where pools are warmed by the sun. However, over the past few years with changing weather patterns and drier winters the ponds are not filling up properly over winter.”

She said last year was particularly devastating because the lack of fresh water caused the natterjack pools to be filled with saltwater, and all 41 toadspawn strings in them were lost.

“The passionate group of Our Dee Estuary citizen science volunteers who monitor the natterjack toad pools for spawn and tadpoles were visibly upset at the devastation of the potential natterjack population last year,” Lake said.

“We hope that a few brave toads are spawning in small pools amongst the reedbeds. However, this is risky. The tadpoles of common toads, also in the reedbeds, will eat natterjack tadpoles who are competing for the same habitat.”

Rangers at the National Trust said they had also noticed a lack of frogs, toads and their spawn this year.

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A spokesperson said: “There are some places, like Felbrigg in the east of England, where they have noticed a lack of frog or toad spawn in the pond in their walled garden, which has traditionally had rich amphibian populations in the past years.”

The team at Sheringham Park, a National Trust park in north Norfolk, said that abstraction of water for farming due to the drought had drained the ponds in which the frogs and toads usually spawned.

They said: “It has largely been an average year, but then given the lifespan of adult toads it would take several years for any major change to be noticeable. What we do have is ponds that are still dry from last year, so there is a considerable reduction in habitat. This is also due to abstraction rather than just lack of rain. Restoring such ponds and indeed creating new ones is incredibly important for amphibians and a wide range of other species.”

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