• Dirk

Building a habitat for amphibians and many other species

The increasing human population and the modernization of conventional agriculture has let to the loss of an important ecosystem – small lakes and ponds. Many amphibians lost their home during the reorganization of agricultural land and not only amphibians. Small water bodies are the home of many different species, including snails, beetles, damselflies and dragonflies. Here, I report on my own efforts on how to build a new home for those species and how long it takes until it is well taken over by the different species groups. It is easy, everyone can do it.

In 2016, I rented a small excavator to start digging the whole. The dimension of the hole is roughly 6 by 5 meters and in the middle, I did dig down to more than 2 meters. The latter is important, so that there remains a part of the pond, which would not freeze over. Well, with the increasing temperatures during winter, apart of a thin ice-layer, we had not seen any freezing. I also took care that there are different platforms/levels in different depth to enrich the structure of the pond.

Once the hole was ready, including a densification of parts of it, I put a multi-layer of plastic film in, using a relatively inexpensive silo film, which is 6 meters wide and 30 meters long.

Alternatively, you can use a much thicker and more expensive film for ponds. In any case, the film should be UV-resistant. So, once the film was roughly in place, I laid stones around the edge of the pond to fix and weight down the plastic film. Only then did I start to let water flow in. In my case, this is water which comes directly from a source in the mountains (lucky me). With increasing water volume, the plastic film was stretched and put tightly in place. I did not put in plants or anything, and definitely did not buy any plants, which could be a source for introducing unwanted microorganisms and pathogens in the pond.

Already in the first year (2017), dragonflies and snails colonized the pond.

We translocated tadpoles of the midwife toad from a trough (ca. 50 m away) in the pond in 2017, to save them from being killed by a cleaning action of the trough. These tadpoles developed well, and we have already more and more midwife toads in the village, likely coming from our pond. Their food source were algae naturally developing in the pond. We saw some explorative individuals of the Palmate Newt and the Common Frog and toad around, but no spawn. The pond slowly developed, the plants around started to grow and overgrow the edges. I only added water, when evaporation was too high.

In 2018, we had two egg clutches of the Common Frog in the pond. In 2019, we had about 10, in 2020 we had about 20 and in 2021 there were 55 – 56 egg clutches. So, while there were quickly occurring naturally colonizing amphibians, it took still 5 years to establish a population.

The pond will further develop, but it shows that those habitats are well taken by amphibians and other species and those with a big enough garden, I can only invite everyone to invest roughly 800 Euros to construct a pond of the size as the one described here. You will enjoy more life in your garden, including also pollinators, which will use your pond as a source of water. You may have higher yields of fruits and vegetables as a result.

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