Digging for the fire-bellied toad

22.08.2019 - The season for the creation of further ponds in the biosphere reserve has started

Hitzacker, Hannover – Bombina bombina is the melodious scientific name of the fire-bellied toad. More than 98% of the Lower Saxony population of the fire-bellied toad lives in the biosphere reserve ‘River Elbe Valley Lower Saxony’. But here also the population has been significantly declining over the last years. For this reason, the LIFE project “Flood Plain Amphibians” started in 2016. It is a partnership between NABU Lower Saxony, the biosphere reserve administration and AmphiConsult. The project is funded by the European Union.

“Fire-bellied toads need sunny, shallow water bodies to reproduce”, explains the project member Rebecca Heiligtag. She is responsible for the river Elbe valley area. Ideally, the ponds should be surrounded by cattle grazing land, so that the fire-bellied toads are not injured or killed during the mowing of grassland. In addition, grazing cattle prevent that reed and shrubs grow and quickly cover the pond surface. In the impressions that the cattle hoofs leave behind in the soft soil, young toads can find protection and food.

In the last three years, 23 ponds for the fire-bellied toad have been excavated in the grassland areas around the lakes Großer See and Kleiner See south of the village of Stapel in the parish of Neuhaus. At the moment, work for the creation of further ponds for the fire-bellied toad is starting. A further 17 new ponds will be created in the parish of Neuhaus. In addition, the diggers of the civil engineering company will excavate ponds in the Danneberg marsh for the first time. Close to a dozen new homes for the fire-bellied toad are being created in the area of the Dambeck meadows and in the area of the village of Penkefitz.

“A further 60 ponds are planned and are due to be implemented by the end of the project in 2023”, Rebecca Heiligtag sketches out the target. In addition, stone heaps covered with soil are being created as overwintering habitats as part of the LIFE project ‘Floodplain Amphibians’.  Drainage channels, locally known as ‘Grüppen’, are being blocked to retain more water in the refuge areas of the fire-bellied toads. Most actions are implemented on land owned by the federal state of Lower Saxony. Some private land owners have also been recruited, who are providing their land to protect the habitat of the fire-bellied toad.

Photo: “Excavation of a shallow pond for fire-bellied toads” © BRV/T. Keienburg

Photo: “A calling fire-bellied toad” © BRV/R. Heiligtag