Written by Kaitlin Oliver, Transforming Lives Trainee
Amphibians in urban environments face a range of challenges due to the altered habitat, pollution and human activities associated with urbanization.
Urban development often involves the destruction of natural habitats which lead to the loss of breeding and feeding grounds for amphibians. Additionally, any remaining natural areas can become fragmented with lakes and woodlands being closed off by housing, making it difficult for amphibians to move between suitable habitats. This can lead to isolated populations and reduced genetic diversity, causing inbreeding.
Amphibians heavily rely on aquatic environments for breeding and larval development. Urban environments can expose amphibians to various forms of pollution, including chemical pollutants from runoff, air pollution and noise pollution. Amphibians have permeable skin that makes them sensitive to pollutants, leading to developmental deformities, immune system suppression and reduced reproductive success. Urban areas often have altered water bodies like unhealthy ponds, ditches and drainage systems that may be contaminated with pollutants, have fluctuating water levels, or lack suitable vegetation. These conditions can negatively impact amphibian survival rate and their larval survival.
Amphibians such as frogs and toads rely on using water sources such as lakes, rivers, forest ponds and garden ponds. Newts especially rely on healthy ponds to breed in. If you have space, adding a pond to your garden will not only help amphibians, but will also massively improve the lives of a variety of wildlife. Froglife has a booklet that you can download called ‘Just add water’ on our website if you are interested in building a pond suitable for amphibians.
Designing urban infrastructure with consideration for amphibians can make a significant difference. For example, creating artificial wetlands, amphibian-friendly green roofs, creating wildlife corridors, maintaining natural water bodies, implementing wildlife-friendly landscaping practices and constructing road barriers or tunnels to reduce road mortality can all provide fantastic habitats and mitigate the impacts of urbanization.
Citizen science is very important as it can help monitor the health and distribution of amphibians. If you have a pond that amphibians breed in or visit, please use our free Dragon Finder App to report your sightings. Roads and vehicles pose a significant threat to amphibians in urban areas, so another way you can help amphibians is through the Toads on Roads project, where you assist toads in your area with their spring migration journey crossing roads.
Urbanization poses numerous challenges for our declining populations of amphibians, however, there are opportunities for conservation and education. By implementing thoughtful planning, mitigation measures, and public engagement, it’s possible to create more amphibian-friendly urban landscapes and help protect these vital components of biodiversity.