Caring fathers need support


NABU LIFE project investigates the populations of the midwife toad in project areas in south-east Lower Saxony


Rinteln, Goslar, Hannover. Within the framework of the LIFE BOVAR amphibian conservation project, NABU Lower Saxony has carried out a monitoring of the midwife toad in the project region of South-East Lower Saxony in spring and summer 2018. As a rule, caller groups of the nocturnal, secretly living amphibian species are counted and evidence of successful reproduction is documented. Currently the population of the species in Lower Saxony is declining strongly. There are only a few larger occurrences left. The NABU project aims to implement species protection measures for the midwife toad in suitable habitats.


With a size of only 3.5 to 5 cm, the midwife toad is one of the smallest anurans in Germany. Only rarely do you really get to see the grey-brown amphibians. Often they sit well hidden in holes in the ground or under stones at warm and sparsely vegetated places. But at the beginning of dusk one can hear - with a little luck - the bell-like calls of these animals in their habitat. As its name suggests, the midwife toad is mainly known for the care of the brood by the males. The spawn will not be found in the water like with other amphibians, but the male carries the fertilized spawn-lines wrapped around its hind legs several weeks with itself, until it puts it into the water where the tadpoles will hatch.


               Foto: Bruno Scheel / NABU


Despite this care, the midwife toad is one of the most endangered species on the Red List in Lower Saxony. Their distribution area in Lower Saxony is largely limited to the Weser and Leine Mountains and the Harz Mountains. The loss of suitable terrestrial habitats due to scrubland, the loss of dry stone walls, the disappearance of suitable waters and the stocking of predatory fish are the greatest causes of danger, especially in the settlement area, where midwife toads can otherwise find a suitable habitat. In order to counteract the disappearance of these anurans, the LIFE-Project "Management of the Yellow-bellied Toad and other Amphibian Species of Dynamic Habitats" – in short: "LIFE BOVAR" - was launched in March 2018. This is a funding project of the European Union (EU), which is supported with funds from the EU environmental programme - with a focus on nature and biodiversity. NABU Lower Saxony is the project sponsor. Within the framework of this project, favourable habitat conditions for the midwife toad are to be restored in the project areas. This includes the remediation and replenishment of small water bodies, the development of summer habitats through scrub clearance and raw soil treatment as well as the creation of isolated rock fills when land habitats no longer offer sufficient structural wealth. But also in the own garden something can be done for the kind, for example, by constructing a pond or a dry stone wall, which provides niches for shelter.


The current state of knowledge on the distribution situation of the midwife toad in Lower Saxony dates back to 1999 and some more recent mappings. The project supports the mapping in the project areas in the distribution area of the midwife toad in southeast Lower Saxony. This year, NABU Lower Saxony carried out mappings in the areas where this species was known. It turned out that the midwife toad is lost or even extinct in many areas - e.g. in soilfalls at the southern Harz border. In the district of Schaumburg, the population situation of the midwife toad also seems to be worrying. The midwife toad used to occur in several areas. The formerly largest occurrence in the administrative district near Rinteln is, like other occurrences, on a very low population level. Other small occurrences no longer exist or also have a maximum of five callers. So that the calls of the midwife toad in the Schaumburg Country will be to be heard soon again more frequently, measures are already in preparation. The problem with this species is that it is often overlooked in planning projects, and not enough water is available for reproduction or hiding places like stone heaps are removed.


There had been two populations in the district of Goslar whose occurrences were still relatively large. Although a quite large number of about 100 callers could be documented here, there are problems due to the fish stock in their former reproduction waters. In order to keep the population stable here, the creation of new fish-free waters and the clearing of bushes in the summer habitats are already being planned. Currently, the LIFE BOVAR project has already implemented an immediate measure to new create waterbodies. In the future, the population is to be stabilised so that the mysterious bell sound can still be heard at one point or another in the future


               Foto: Bruno Scheel / NABU


Project background

In the LIFE BOVAR project, NABU Lower Saxony - together with its project and cooperation partners - is dedicated to the management of the yellow-bellied toad and other endangered amphibian species and the targeted development of dynamic habitats for species conservation.


The most important objectives of the project are the implementation of practical species protection measures for endangered amphibian species, the restoration and optimisation of favourable habitat conditions and the strengthening of the biotope network through stepping stones and partial reintroduction in order to link isolated populations with each other. The target species yellow-bellied toad, midwife toad, natterjack toad and crested newt should benefit from this. In addition, a contribution is to be made to restoring the original range of the species.


Together with the project partners from the Netherlands (Stichting IKL), the Hildesheim School Biology Centre, the Soest Working Group on Biological Environmental Protection, the NABU Nature Conservation Station Aachen as well as the federal states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, project actions and species protection measures will be carried out over a period of eight years to contribute to biological diversity. As it is usual for LIFE projects, instruments will be developed for the long-term protection and maintenance of habitats. In order to raise awareness of biological diversity, information campaigns - such as the launch event - will also be carried out.


The EU Commission, project partners, project sponsors and supporters have made the project possible with a total volume of over 4.6 million Euros.


Project sponsors

The LIFE project "Management of the Yellow-bellied Toad and other amphibian species of dynamic habitats" - in short: "LIFE BOVAR" - is a funding project of the European Union (EU) and is funded by the EU Environmental Programme with a focus on nature and biodiversity. Furthermore, the project is supported by the State of Lower Saxony with funds from the Lower Saxony Ministry for the Environment, Energy, Construction and Climate Protection (MU); the Lower Saxony Bingo Environmental Foundation; the State of North Rhine-Westphalia with funds from the Ministry for the Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MULNV); The Lower Saxony State Forests; the districts of Minden-Luebbecke, Goslar, Hameln-Pyrmont, Hildesheim, Holzminden and Schaumburg; the Hanover region; the cities of Hanover and Hildesheim; the NABU North Rhine-Westphalia State Association; the NABU Minden-Luebbecke district association and the company Saint-Gobain Formula GmbH.