Fire-bellied toads in fens – a study tour to Brandenburg and Poland from 13-17 May 2019

24.05.2019 A study tour took the LIFE floodplain Amphibians project team to the habitats of the fire-bellied toad in Brandenburg and Eastern Poland. The aim of the tour was to get to know habitats of the toad in fenland areas. In Lower Saxony the current population of the fire-bellied toad is limited to the River Elbe valley. Part of the project is to reintroduce it to the fen habitats of the Dromling area near the City of Wolfsburg and lake Steinhude near Hanover.

The first stop of the tour was a place called Rhinluch northwest of Berlin. Dr Norbert Schneeweiß of the nature conservation station Rhinluch near the village of Linum led the expedition to several fire-bellied toad habitats. The species is well represented in the pond areas of the Linum. Even in a newly restored pond, individual calls of the toad could be heard. Important breeding areas are also large-scale shallow flooded wet meadows on boggy soil.

After short stops in the Uckermark region and the river Oder valley, the tour took us to the Biebrza National Park in eastern Poland. This national park is well known for its large-scale fen areas. Lars Biggs of Amphi International led the group to a diverse range of toad habitats. The fire-bellied toad lives less so in pristine open fens, but more so in the neighbouring cultural landscapes. In addition to oxbows in grassland, wet flooded meadows creating a shallow waterbody on boggy soils play an important role for the fire-bellied toad. This cultural landscape is characterised by the close vicinity of wet and dry habitats. The varied relief of the river valley is maintained here in its original state, leading to high levels of biodiversity. At one night-time excursion, ten different amphibian species were found on a single pasture.

“Fens and especially their margins, extensively used by agriculture are in principle suitable as fire-bellied toad habitats”, is the summary of Dr Markus Richter. “For our future planning, we should cast an eye on large-scale flooded grasslands.”

Photo: Fire-bellied toad, Biebrza National Park, J. Neumann, excursion group: J. Neumann/ NABU Lower Saxony