April 2, 2009

Surveys Provide Data On Reptiles And Amphibians In UK Gardens

A group of wildlife charities are asking for volunteers to carry out a national "stock-take" of the reptiles and amphibians found in the UK's gardens, BBC News reported.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Froglife and the Herpetological Conservation Trust (HCT) have formed a coalition called Reptiles and Amphibians in your Garden.

They're hoping the survey will unite large groups of amateur wildlife watchers including birdwatchers, gardeners, hands-on conservation volunteers and the general public.

The results will contribute to knowledge of where frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards are found nationally, wildlife experts said.

It will also allow scientists a better insight to how important gardens are for the conservation of the tiny garden dwellers.

Data collected from the surveys may help wildlife experts better understand how amphibian and reptile populations may be responding to threats like habitat loss, disease and garden chemicals.

Jules Howard from Froglife said amphibians and reptiles don't have the same level of public support like birds do.

"All we know about reptiles is based on a few scientific studies and some surveys - but basically we haven't a clue about what's going on in people's gardens," she said.

She believes it is important to understand the tiny reptiles habitat so they can direct resources to the right areas in the future.

Although people may think of amphibians and reptiles as creatures that occur only in the countryside, naturalists said the 13 species native to Britain could all inhabit gardens.

Some gardens can even harbor hundreds of common frogs, while others can house large populations of slow-worms (a legless lizard). Grass snakes scour ponds looking for amphibian prey, making them prevalent in some urban areas.

Howard said the good thing about the study is that it's employing such a wide number of people, providing information that they never would have gotten in the past.

"We're hoping to get over 20,000 people involved," she said.

The surveys ask volunteers to check off species they have seen and answer straightforward questions about their gardens, such as whether they have a pond, whether they use pesticides or whether or not they have a compost heap.

John Baker from the HCT said it was the largest survey of these species focused on gardens in Britain and has been designed to complement other studies that are tracking the fate of amphibians and reptiles in the British countryside.


On The Net:


British Trust for Ornithology

Herpetological Conservation Trust