The natterjack toad has suffered a substantial decline in numbers and range during the 20th century due to reductions in its habitat (heathland, sand dune and upper saltmarsh). Excluding translocation sites where populations have been recently re-established, the species can be found at four natural sites in Scotland and 35 in England, but has become extinct in Wales. It has now been introduced to 13 sites, including one in Wales.
The species is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Annex IVa of the EC Habitats Directive. It is protected by Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations, 1994, and Schedule 5 of the WCA 1981.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Loss of habitat due to housing and industrial development, agriculture and reduced grazing on heathlands
Fixation of dune systems and prevention of tidal inundation through the creation of sea defence mechanisms.
Habitat fragmentation, leading to genetic isolation of populations.
Acidification and loss of breeding pools.
This species has been the subject of conservation action by both statutory and voluntary organisations (notably the British Herpetological Society) for over twenty years. A Species Recovery Programme, funded by NE and CCW, was completed in June 1995. This included habitat management, research, and translocation to 13 formerly occupied and other suitable sites. This work has now been taken on by the Herpetological Conservation Trust.
The British Herpetological Society maintain a register of all sites in the UK, which is update annually.
Action plan objectives and targets
Maintain the size of all existing populations at known or presumed 1995 levels.
Where appropriate, restore each population to its size in the 1970s. (The 1970s level was chosen as a date when baseline information was available, and represents a recent historic date for which the targets should be both achievable and measurable)
Re-establish five further populations between 1995 and 2005 within the species' former range. (A target of five sites was selected since this represents an approximate increase of 10%, and it is an achievable target. There may be difficulties selecting more than five sites over the next five years; more may divert conservation attention away from the need to enhance existing populations).
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
SSSI objectives and if necessary guidelines need to be reviewed with reference to natterjack toad colonies to see if the level of protection and range of protected sites is appropriate to the national need . (Action: NE, SNH, CCW, JNCC, and NGOs)
The law covering the fencing of common land may need to be reviewed to ensure that appropriate management can be carried out on all sites.
Review Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and Habitat Regulations (1994) to ensure they provide adequate protection for and means of conserving natterjacks and provision for enforcement to allow this to be effective.
All natterjack sites need to be identified in local plans so they can benefit from species protection policies (Action: Local Authorities, SNH, NE, CCW, Wildlife Trusts)
Incentives for sympathetic management for this species and its habitat need to be highlighted and expanded, e.g. Countryside Stewardship.
To look at the licencing system to make sure that there is an appropriate level of control of activities whilst encouraging co-operation and greater use of information collected.
Produce regional or local plans / strategies to identify conservation and management objectives for the region and for specific sites. Action: HCT, NE, CCW, with specific local support (LAs and NGOs).
Site safeguard and management
BHS, HCT and other NGOs to provide details to statutory bodies. Owners to be notified of obligations and constraints. (Action: CCW,NE, SNH, Las)
HCT with other NGOs to identify priorities based on a review of all sites. Opportunities should be pursued to acquire sites which are not owned by organisations with a conservation remit. (Action: Local Authorities, HCT, other NGOs, EA, SEPA)
Continue to state objectives for each site, define them as measurable targets, and then monitor progress against these targets. Generic management plan objectives can be taken from the NE Natterjack Toad Conservation Handbook. (ACTION: NE, SNH, CCW and HCT)
A national priority list for site management to be produced annually in consultation with owners, other bodies etc. Progress against priorities to be monitored. (Action: HCT)
Review SSSI series against objectives and guidelines (cf. 5.1.1). Action: NE, SNH, CCW and NGOs.
Need to review 2nd tier sites (SINCs, LNRs, etc). Criteria, objectives and guidelines ensure all non SSSIs listed.
Review Environmental Land Management Schemes (e.g Countryside Stewardship) to maximise potential for including conservation measures for natterjack toads. Action: MAFF,FRCA, SOAEFD, NE, CCW, SNH.
Identify means for sustainable management of sites. (Action: HCT, NE, Heathland Projects, Wildlife Trusts, LAs etc.)
Species management and protection
Provide an over-view of objectives for translocation / re-introduction of the species. Translocation sites need to be within the same biogeographic region of an extinct colony not necessarily restricted to the exact localities. Co-ordinate and promote a prioritised list of translocation projects. (Appendix 2). (Action: HCT, JNCC, NE, CCW, SNH)
Review role of current captive breeding projects and support and use captive bred material for translocations where appropriate. (Action: HCT, BHS.)
Information to be disseminated to parties which need it.
Produce and distribute information explaining the implications of legal status, obligations and constraints to other bodies and organisations able to influence land use, eg. FA, FRCA, MAFF, Water Companies, CLA. (Action: NE, SNH, CCW, HCT, EA, SEPA.)
Future Research and Monitoring
Co-ordinate the monitoring of Natterjack colonies to ensure the Site Register updates are produced. Produce a 2000 edition of the Site Register that provides a sound baseline for survey work in the new millenium Guidelines for monitoring need to be produced to ensure that methods are standardised as much as possible to allow evaluation of site population status relative to the conservation objectives. Training days may need to be held and relevant materials produced.
Research the causes of failure / poor performance of translocations, the dispersal and survival of toadlets and the pond use by natterjacks at the Cumbrian upland site.
This action requires the development of an appropriate national Biodiversity monitoring /recording scheme. (ACTION: JNCC)
Establish guidelines for determining Favourable Status of the species against which
Establish monitoring methods for assessment of the condition of SSSIs for the species and appropriate validation studies. (Action: NE, CCW, SNH)
Communications and Publicity
Produce an overview of current material and identify needs. Public awareness could be raised by promoting the various Natterjack events held in the different regions, providing material outlining where Natterjacks can be safely seen and heard, producing information sheets to satisfy the types of enquiry received. PR opportunities to be taken where they will promote conservation.
Progress reports are needed by the Contact Agency and the
Links with other action plans