Toads are croaking at a worrying rate: Research

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
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The numbers of common toads in the U.K. have declined, on average, by 68 percent over the last 30 years, according to a new report.

Toads frequently have to cross roads when they migrate to breeding ponds. Conservation charity Froglife – together with colleagues from Switzerland – analyzed millions of records of common toads being carried to safety by volunteers in both countries.

The results of the analysis were published in open-access journal PLOS-ONE. In a news release on Thursday, Froglife said they showed a rapid and continuous decline in toad numbers since the 1980s.

The decline was most likely due to a combination of factors, from changing farming practices to loss of ponds and greater urbanisation. Climate change was also seen as a potential cause, with Froglife noting that research had highlighted how "milder winters are detrimental for hibernating toads."

"Toad declines at this scale over such large areas are really worrying," Silviu Petrovan, conservation coordinator at Froglife and an author of the study, said in a statement. "Toads are extremely adaptable and can live in many places ranging from farmland and woodland to suburban gardens," he added.

"They are also important pest controllers eating slugs, snails and insects and are food themselves for many of our most likeable mammals such as otters and polecats."

More was needed to be done to look after the environment so that species dependent on it were protected, he said.

It is not just toads that are being hit by changes in environment. Earlier this year, a study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and partners found that the American pika, a small plant-eating relative of the rabbit, was disappearing from parts of the western U.S. as a result of climate change.