|Reptiles and amphibians in your garden|
A national ‘stock-take’ of the reptiles and amphibians in the UK’s gardens is being launched. Called Reptiles and Amphibians in your Garden, this national project is being undertaken by The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust (HCT). The survey aims to bring together an army of amateur wildlife watchers including birdwatchers, gardeners, hands-on conservation volunteers and the general public.
This is the first time such a large-scale garden survey has been undertaken in the UK, and the results should be incredibly interesting, and have real significance for the future conservation of UK amphibians and reptiles.
The results will also be used to understand how amphibian and reptile populations may be responding to a variety of threats, including habitat loss, disease and garden chemicals. Although people may think of amphibians and reptiles as creatures that occur only in the countryside, the 13 species native to Britain can all, to differing degrees, inhabit gardens. Some gardens can harbour hundreds of common frogs, and others can house large populations of slow-worms (a legless lizard). Grass snakes can also be prevalent in some urban areas, where they dip in and out of ponds looking for amphibian prey. Volunteers are needed to complete a simple recording form, marking off species they have seen and answering 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.
Amphibians and reptiles have declined primarily through loss of habitat associated with the intensification of agriculture and other land use changes such as building development and afforestation. Losses of ponds, hedgerows and rough grassland have reduced the habitat available to widespread species. The rare species have also suffered due to the loss of their specific habitats (heathland and coastal sand dunes) to building development. Fragmentation of habitat is a particular problem for a group of animals with limited abilities to move long distances.