Restoring ponds for amphibians: a success story
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- Rannap, R., Lõhmus, A. & Briggs, L. Hydrobiologia (2009) 634: 87. doi:10.1007/s10750-009-9884-8
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Large-scale restoration of quality habitats is often considered essential for the recovery of threatened pond-breeding amphibians but only a few successful cases are documented, so far. We describe a landscape-scale restoration project targeted at two declining species—the crested newt (Triturus cristatus Laur.) and the common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus Wagler)—in six protected areas in southern and southeastern Estonia. The ponds were restored or created in clusters to (i) increase the density and number of breeding sites at local and landscape levels; (ii) provide adjacent ponds with differing depths, hydroperiods and littoral zones and (iii) restore an array of wetlands connected to appropriate terrestrial habitat. In only 3 years, where 22 of the 405 existing ponds (5%) were restored and 208 new ponds (51%) created, the number of ponds occupied by the common spadefoot toad increased 6.5 times. Concerning the crested newt and the moor frog (Rana arvalis Nilsson), the increase was 2.3 and 2.5 times, respectively. The target species had breeding attempts in most of the colonised ponds—even more frequently than common species. Also, the amphibian species richness was higher in the restored than in the untreated ponds. The crested newt preferably colonised ponds that had some submerged vegetation and were surrounded by forest or a mosaic of forest and open habitats. The common spadefoot toad favoured ponds having clear and transparent water. Our study reveals that habitat restoration for threatened pond-breeding amphibians can rapidly increase their numbers if the restoration is implemented at the landscape scale, taking into account the habitat requirements of target species and the ecological connectivity of populations. When the remnant populations are strong enough, translocation of individuals may not be necessary.