Just Add Water!
The UK’s amphibians are in decline!
Almost 20 years ago, a paper was published in the journal science[i] that found 43% of amphibians were undergoing population declines. Threatened by climate change, the way humans use the land and the spread of fungal disease[ii], many amphibian populations are struggling. Even the ‘common’ toad is in a shocking state of decline because of their habitats being cut up by human developments (such as roads and housing estates)[iii], rising temperatures[iv] and road deaths[v].
At the same time, ponds, important for amphibian reproduction, are threatened by chemicals used in farming, land being drained, climate change and general loss. Pond decline in the UK between the 19th century and the 1980s was as high as 75% with ponds estimated to have dropped from 800,000[i] to an estimated 200,000. This makes ponds Nationally Important (‘priority habitats’).
In England, Wales and Scotland[i] between 1990 and 1998, 24,000 lowland ponds were lost, and 37,000 new ponds created, but “at least 50% of ponds in the wider countryside are highly degraded and there is widespread evidence of enrichment and other diffuse pollution impacts”[ii]
In 2022, research in Gloucestershire found that almost 58% of ponds were lost between 1900 and 2019 and pond density reduced by 38%.[i] The loss of our ‘pondscapes’ has an additional impact on amphibians that move between ponds depending on environmental conditions.
We can work together to restore our pond network; Froglife works to restore and create ponds through projects across the UK and we can support you to create ‘blue spaces’ for our amphibians, freshwater invertebrates, birds, and mammals.
Froglife is supporting SOS-UK with their Wilding Schools Project to rewild the UK’s schools, and it’s great that the drive for this is coming from students! Across the country, schools, colleges, and universities are being asked to increase their sustainability, and having a wildlife garden with a blue space is a great way to support biodiversity conservation, help wildlife locally and enhance mental health and wellbeing. Big or small, adding a pond to your campus is a really good way to do your bit for the neighbourhood’s wildlife. In addition, ponds can be fantastic places to spend time, relax and de-stress.
To help you discover this for yourself, Froglife created the Pond Visualiser App: The app offers information on four different kinds of wildlife ponds- large, small, classic and upcycled. No matter how large your outdoor space, there’s a wildlife pond out there to suit you!
To download the app search for “Froglife” on the Google Play Store!
Once you’ve found the wildlife pond that suits your local greenspace, then you can start to consider other habitat features like log piles, wildflower planting areas and rockeries. Use the app’s 3D Wildlife Pond Advice section to help you!
Our Garden Guardians booklet is also available. The booklet can help you create a wildlife-friendly neighbourhood in your garden and beyond.
You can view the Garden Guardians booklet online for free here.
Top Tips for Wildlife ponds
Here are 8 tips to get the most out of your wildlife pond.
- Complexity is King: A variety of depths in your pond and lots of plant diversity will allow a larger range of animals to colonise.
- Native Niceties: Some pond plants can be used by newts during egg-laying. Source native pond plant cuttings from nearby wildlife ponds with permission.
- Fish Free- If you want to attract frogs and newts, and maximise invertebrate diversity, it’s best not to add fish.
- Entry and Exits: Remember that amphibians and other animals need sloped edges to help them get in and out.
- Be Insect Endowed: Insects play a vital role in your pond food chain. Their presence attracts predators like newts and birds. The more variety the better.
- Drawdown ones: It can be good to let parts of the pond dry up in summer. These areas help seeds germinate and they create shallow niches for insects.
- Hidey Holes– Log piles and dense foliage offer frogs and newts a place to hide and keep safe from predators such as cats and foxes.
- RECORD TAKERS- Tell us about your sightings and help scientists understand the health of local populations. You can download Froglife’s Dragon Finder App to get started.
Once your plan is ready, we want to hear about it!
Your efforts can help inspire others to create or refresh wildlife ponds too, so send us your photos of new or restored wildlife ponds to: email@example.com
Pond Safety Tips:
At Froglife, we know that safety around water is essential. Teaching children from a young age to have a healthy respect for water is key, but we also know that accidents can sometimes happen, so if you’re at all worried about your pond becoming a hazard, here are some steps you can take:
- Put a fence around your pond: The fence can be made of strong wood, unclimbable grating, or vertical railings no more than 10cm apart; it should be at least 1.1m high. Don’t forget to leave a small gap between the ground and fence to allow wildlife access. A childproof, lockable gate should also be installed. Some people find willow-fencing more aesthetically pleasing.
- Install a pond grille: A rigid mesh or grille (5x5cm squared so wildlife can still access the water) across the pond will create a secure platform. The grille needs to be able to support the weight of a child and should always remain above the surface of the water.
- Consider the design of your pond: Gently sloping sides are important for wildlife and for people should they fall in and need to get out easily. An alternative to a ‘traditional’ pond is a raised or free-standing pond – if you decide to go down this route simply make sure that wildlife can still access the water by building up logs and pebbles on the outside and inside of the pond.
Once children are older you can remove many of these features, promoting the pond as a place for enjoying and learning about the natural world.
Froglife Ecological Services (FES)
Froglife Ecological Services (FES) is an established consultancy specialising in pond creation, which does charge for advice and guidance as well as for pond restoration and construction.
FES is a social enterprise with all the profit gifted to Froglife.
Check out our Leapfrog Schools leaflet
Or contact us.
[i] Stuart SN, Chanson JS, Cox NA, Young BE, Rodrigues ASL, et al. (2004) Status and trends of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide. Science 306:1783–1786
[ii] Hof, C., Araújo, M., Jetz, W. et al. Additive threats from pathogens, climate and land-use change for global amphibian diversity. Nature 480, 516–519 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10650
[iii] Carrier, J., & Beebee, T.J. (2003). Recent, substantial, and unexplained declines of the common toad Bufo bufo in lowland England. Biological Conservation, 111, 395-399.
[iv] Reading, C.J. (2007). Linking global warming to amphibian declines through its effects on female body condition and survivorship. Oecologia, 151, 125-131.
[v] Petrovan, S.O., & Schmidt, B.R. (2016). Volunteer Conservation Action Data Reveals Large-Scale and Long-Term Negative Population Trends of a Widespread Amphibian, the Common Toad (Bufo bufo). PLoS ONE, 11.
[vi] Jeffries, M.J. (2011). Ponds and the importance of their history: an audit of pond numbers, turnover and the relationship between the origins of ponds and their contemporary plant communities in south-east Northumberland, UK. Hydrobiologia, 689, 11 – 21.
[vii] Haines-Young et al (2000) Accounting for nature: assessing habitats in the UK countryside
[viii] JNCC (2007) Report by the Biodiversity Reporting and Information Group (BRIG) to the UK Standing Committee June 2007, Report on the Species and Habitat Review 2007 (jncc.gov.uk)
[ix] Smith, Lucy, Clarke, Lucy E, Weldon, Laura and Robson, Hannah (2022) An evidence-based study mapping the decline in freshwater ponds in the Severn Vale catchment in the UK between 1900 and 2019. Hydrobiologia, 849 (21). pp. 4637-4649. doi:10.1007/s10750-022-05000-w