Green Tips: Supporting & Protecting Amphibians During Breeding Season

Green Tips | March 24, 2021

Spring is here, and with it comes the amphibian breeding season. Amphibians are cold-blooded vertebrates which include frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. Amphibians often start their lives as water-dwelling, before undergoing a metamorphosis into land-dwelling adults. For example, frogs start their lives as pond-dwelling tadpoles. There are numerous amphibian species present in New York, the most prevalent of which are the spotted salamander, northern redback salamander, eastern newt, wood frog, northern spring peeper, bullfrog, green frog, and eastern American toad.

Amphibians breathe through their skin, which must remain moist to allow them to do so. Their skin produces proteins, which help them transport oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide, as well as fight off infections. The importance of amphibians’ skin makes the animals especially sensitive to changes in their habitats, including physical disruption and chemical contamination. This sensitivity, combined with human activity, can have devastating results: over half of the world’s frog species are threatened with extinction. An amphibian’s sensitivity to environmental changes make them good “indicator species,” species whose prevalence and health provides insight into the health of an entire ecosystem. Because some amphibian species are threatened, there are things we can do to help them, especially during their breeding season.

How to Help

Many of the following tips are best practices throughout the year, but deserve special attention from March to June, during the amphibian breeding season. The National Wildlife Federation suggests a number of actions, including:

  • Protect natural areas, and educate others on how and why to do so.
  • Protect watersheds. The Nature Conservancy has a list of actions to achieve this:
    • Conserve water whenever possible.
    • Keep toxic chemicals out of your drain.
    • Do not unnecessarily use fertilizers. Doing so causes nutrient pollution.
    • Never dispose of used oil or antifreeze onto the street or into storm drains.
    • Install permeable surfaces on your property where possible.
    • Clean up after your dog.
    • Reduce emissions by biking or walking instead of driving.
  • Help scientists track and save amphibians by participating in monitoring projects such as the NYSDEC Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings program. This program involves documenting where migrating amphibians cross roads and helping the amphibians get across safely when you spot them.
  • Provide a habitat for amphibians through building a backyard pond or marsh. Click the links for information on how to do so.
  • Construct or purchase a toad-abode. Take a ceramic flower pot, turn it upside down, and make a toad sized hole in the side. Since toads enjoy digging, there is no need to include a floor. Place the abode in the shade close to the water.
  • Watch for and control invasive species. This website is a useful resource that includes a list of and information about invasive species in New York state.

Amphibians are some of the most unique animals on the planet. By taking just a few simple steps, you can help conserve and protect these beautiful creatures for years to come. We hope you enjoyed reading this week’s Green Tips!

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