19 March 2012

What to do When the Wetlands are Dry

With today's news again raising concerns about the ongoing drought in parts of the UK, Froglife and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust are offering advice to help protect the wildilfe that could be affected.  With one of the driest autumn and winters on records, water levels are running low in ponds and other wetland habitats. 
Drier weather this spring may affect tadpoles and newt efts
“In the short term, some ponds drying out is not actually that much of a problem,” explains Dr Silviu Petrovan, Conservation Coordinator at Froglife. “Ponds naturally fluctuate, and dry spells can benefit some species as it decreases the chances of fish presence, meaning less predators for developing amphibians. It’s more of a worry that this might become part of a longer term trend due to climate change, and it highlights the need for networks of ponds of varying size and depth so that animals can have the choice to move to more suitable areas.”

“We’re struggling to keep our wetlands wet in winter which is virtually unheard of,” explains Rob Shore, Head of Wetland Conservation at WWT. “If this continues it could have serious impacts on a wide range of wetland wildlife, particularly those species that are less mobile or rely on small and increasingly isolated habitats”.

“A Toad on Roads volunteer in Norfolk asked us what to do if the pond they would normally move the toads to was dry,” adds Silviu, “It’s not a question we’ve been asked before and raised the issue of what effect the local droughts will have on the amphibians that would normally be breeding at this time of year.”

The advice for Toad Patrol volunteers facing this problem is to move the toads as usual to where they would naturally go, even if the pond appears to have dried out. It could be that there is just enough water for them to breed, they might find an alternative pond nearby, or if not, the females can re-absorb the eggs and be in good condition for the summer.

Wildilfe: another reason to be water-wise in the garden
Both charities urge caution about the temptation to fill garden ponds with tap water, not only as this itself could be in short supply, but as the water can contain chlorine, chloramines and high levels of nutrients. Saving precious rainwater in a water butt is and using that is preferable if you need to add extra water to your pond.

“We have the solutions,” concludes Rob. “For example, by creating more, small wetland areas we will keep more water on the landscape. It will benefit wildlife and it will prevent soil, nutrients and other pollutants from being washed into our rivers, which in turn reduces the costs of water treatment. We just need government to back some of these small but sensible ideas, so this problem can be managed for the long term.”

·   More pond advice is available on the Froglife website here
·   You can find out more about drought from the Environment Agency here
·   More news from The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust is available on their website here

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