Amphibians are among the most endangered animal groups in Austria and worldwide. The reasons for this include the destruction and degradation of habitats, fungal diseases and changes in land use. For some amphibian species, agricultural areas and even cities are important habitats, despite many disturbances.
The Green toad - pioneers of aquatic habitats
Our target species is the endangered Green toad - a typical pioneer species that can quickly colonize newly created bodies of water. In Austria, its main distribution area is in eastern Austria with isolated island-like occurrences in the west. Its natural spawning waters are steppe lakes filled after rainfall or pools formed after flooding, with plenty of sunlight. With a few exceptions, the natural spawning habitats of the Green toad have largely disappeared in Europe. In addition to these near-natural bodies of water, artificial bodies of water or puddles that are filled after downpours are now often utilized by Green toads. While the habitat requirements of this species appear clear with regard to the original spawning and terrestrial habitats (dynamic floodplains with sprawling gravel banks or flat open steppe areas with pools), it is much more difficult to define which secondary habitats support the species.
The importance of alternative living spaces
The disappearance of fallow land and the closing of gaps between buildings are leading to a deterioration in the conservation status of the Green toad in both rural and inner-city areas. Mitigation measures, such as the provision of replacement habitats, counteract this negative development. The AmphiBiom project's scientifically supported initiative to create small bodies of water not only provides additional spawning grounds for Green toads and other endangered amphibians (e.g. Yellow-bellied toad). This gives the project team the opportunity to study the succession and progressive colonization of water bodies by a diverse pioneer fauna, whose habitats are constantly being reduced in an increasingly controlled and less dynamic environment. This innovative approach allows a further analysis of the consequences for the artificial creation of new small ponds and thus a comprehensive consideration and evaluation of such species protection measures.
AmphiBiom's contribution to the protection of the Green toad
This project uses citizen science to study this pioneer species in order to investigate its distribution in areas that are often inaccessible for research (e.g. private gardens) and to actively involve citizens in the project.
In addition, the aim is to show all participants that they themselves can promote the survival of this protected species with just a little effort. These small but valuable measures strengthen the general awareness that is needed to better understand species and habitat protection measures.
In a further step, the supplementary evaluation of existing conservation measures will clarify in which areas such measures (still) make sense and where they could contribute to the resurgence of populations that have been classified as extinct.