Toads, frogs, and newts – known collectively as amphibians – are starting to wake up from hibernation here in Brighton & Hove and navigate to freshwater environments such as ponds and lakes.
During winter, amphibians hibernate underground in tree root cavities, rabbit holes, deep leaf matter, and log piles in dense scrub, hedgerows and woodland. They wake up ready to journey great distances to breeding sites where they reproduce each spring.
However, this journey is fraught with danger and countless amphibians are squashed each year trying to cross roads and vast plains of tarmac while avoiding cats, kerbs and gully pots.
CiCi Blumstein from Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group said: “Each year in early spring, hundreds of thousands of toads, frogs and newts across the UK migrate to their ancestral spawning ponds, crossing busy roads in the process – often with fatal consequences.
“The Wildlife Trusts estimate that 20 tonnes of unlucky toads are killed on UK roads every year. In another alarming statistic, our common toad numbers have declined by two-thirds in the last 30 years.”
How you can help
You can help protect local amphibians by watching out for toads, frogs, and newts on paths and roads around ponds such as those in Preston Park, Wild Park, Queens Park. Visit our ponds webpage to discover more ponds in Brighton & Hove.
Within the South Downs National Park, a group of volunteer toad patrollers help toads cross the road, but more support is always appreciated. Cat’s Creep Toad Patrol was spawned in 2020 and monitors a narrow, urban stepped alleyway in Brighton between Roundhill Crescent and Richmond Road. If you’d like to get involved, Froglife have compiled information about how to become a toad patroller.
The South Downs National Park Authority are creating and restoring dew ponds to provide healthier habitat for our amphibians and other wildlife. A new dew pond at Wilding Waterhall will attract breeding toads and frogs, while our Wilder Verges pilot and hedge planting and maintenance provides habitats and safer movement corridors.
You can support local amphibians by creating your own garden wildlife pond (without fish) where tadpoles can develop. This should include at least one gently sloping side up to dry land to allow easy access. Visit the RSPB website to learn more about how to create a mini garden pond.
You can also join Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group to support the conservation of native amphibians and reptiles.
Amphibians and climate change
Amphibians are especially vulnerable to climate change and habitat loss. Chytrid fungus, a fungal disease that can kill amphibians, grows faster when temperatures change unpredictably. It is having devastating impacts on populations in Europe and around the world.
Amphibians have very thin skin that they breathe and absorb water through, but this fragile skin means they require very specific living conditions. Too much sun can damage their cells and too much wind can dehydrate the animal.
This means that amphibians are the first to die off when their habitats are disturbed or contaminated with chemicals such as weed killers, putting certain species in danger of extinction.
Unfortunately, we have seen a significant decline in our toad, frog and newt populations. This is particularly noticeable in Stanmer Park where toad populations have disappeared almost entirely.
Encouraging wildlife to thrive
Councillor Jamie Lloyd, lead councillor for biodiversity, said: “The council declared a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2018, and since then we have been working hard to restore nature and encourage wildlife to thrive in Brighton & Hove.
“Amphibians are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, so it’s important that we protect these species as they come out of hibernation and move to breeding sites.
“By looking out for toads and frogs or creating a wildlife pond in your garden, you can help to ensure the survival of these valuable species that are a crucial part of our local ecosystem.”
Lend our amphibians a helping hand
Kim Greaves, Chair of Brighton and Hove’s Wildlife Forum, said: "Amphibians are such wonderfully charismatic and fascinating species, and their potential loss from our landscape would be an unimaginable tragedy.
“As we have seen locally at Stanmer, even seemingly healthy populations can be lost in a very short space of time without care, but there is much we can do to lend our amphibians a helping hand.
“Encourage children to observe frogspawn, tadpoles and adults in their natural environment rather than handling them or taking them home. Likewise, never move amphibians between ponds, as this risks damaging them or introducing diseases that could devastate entire populations.”
“Ensure amphibians have easy access into and out of ponds and have cover, in the form of meadow areas or scrub, to move into immediately. Extra care needs to be taken at this time of year to ensure they are undisturbed, so pond management should be limited to late autumn.”