Protect habitats for amphibians

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • One replicated, site comparison study in the UK found that populations of natterjack toads were better protected at sites with a statutory level of habitat protection than those outside protected areas. One before-and-after study in the UK found that a common frog population increased but common toads decreased following the protection of a pond during development.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, site comparison study in 1970–1989 of natterjack toads Bufo calamita in the UK (Banks, Beebee & Cooke 1994) found that populations at sites with a statutory level of habitat protection were better protected than those outside protected areas. Populations within Sites of Special Scientific Interest or National nature Reserves were better protected from damaging activities (before 1980: 40%; 1989: 100% of threats defended) than those outside (0–29%). Protection for natterjacks in the wider countryside did not improve following Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 (1970–1979: 0–20%; 1980–1989: 0–29%). Populations that were not ‘protected’ were either lost, damaged or had a planning decision made against their conservation interest. ‘Damaging activities’ included direct development such as caravan parks or intensification of agriculture. Surveys of known and new populations were undertaken annually.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after study in 1986–1999 of a pond within a housing development in Cambridgeshire, UK (Cooke 2000) found that pond protection during development did not prevent a significant decrease in common toads Bufo bufo, but resulted in an increase in common frogs Rana temporaria during the following ten years. Toad day counts decreased from 145–262 in 1990–1991 to 63 in 1999. Night counts showed a similar trend (240–434 to 59). However, numbers of frog egg masses increased significantly from 12 in 1990 to 96 in 1999. Development was undertaken in 1988–1989 and part of the largest of three breeding ponds was protected. The pond section was 375 m2, with a terrestrial margin of 5 m. Each spring, day and night pond counts were undertaken.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Smith, R.K., Meredith, H. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Amphibian Conservation. Pages 9-64 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Amphibian Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Amphibian Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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