Engage landowners and other volunteers to manage land for amphibians

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two before-and-after studies (including one replicated study) in Estonia and Taiwan found that habitat management with participation of volunteers increased natterjack toad and Taipei frog populations.
  • One controlled study in Mexico found that engaging landowners in aquatic habitat management increased axolotl weight.
  • Six studies in Estonia, the USA and UK found that between eight and 41,000 volunteers were engaged in aquatic and terrestrial habitat restoration programmes for amphibians. Individual programmes restored up to 1,023 ponds or over 11,500 km2 of habitat.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, before-and-after study in 2001–2004 of three coastal meadows in Estonia (Rannap 2004) found that habitat restoration with participation from 200 volunteers resulted in increased numbers of natterjack toads Bufo calamita on one island and a halt in the decline of the species on the other two islands. In 2001–2004, habitats were restored with the help of 200 volunteers during 14 work camps. Restoration included reed and scrub removal, mowing (cuttings removed) and implementation of grazing where it had ceased. Sixty-six breeding ponds and natural depressions were cleaned, deepened and restored. The project also involved educational and informational activities.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after study in 1999–2006 of a water lily paddy field in Taipei County, Taiwan (Lin et al. 2008) found that participation from the local community resulted in a doubling of a population of Taipei frogs Rana taipehensis. Habitat management by the community, along with the halting of herbicide and pesticide use by providing financial incentives to a farmer, resulted in a significant population increase (from 28 to 85). Habitat-improvement work including cutting weeds in the field was undertaken with participation from a local school and the Tse-Xing Organic Agriculture Foundation. Community-education programmes about wetland conservation were also carried out in the area.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A study in 2008 of a partnership programme in the USA (Milmoe 2008) found that since establishment the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program supported over 41,000 private landowners and developed partnerships with over 3,000 nationwide organizations to restore huge areas of habitat. Working together, partners have restored and enhanced 324,000 ha of wetlands, 800,000 ha of uplands and 10,500 km of stream habitat. Data were not provided to determine the effect on target species. The programme run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service was a voluntary habitat restoration programme. It provided technical and financial assistance to private landowners to support the habitat needs of species of conservation concern. Projects included creating and restoring ponds and wetlands for the Puerto Rican crested toad Peltophryne lemur, chiricahua leopard frog Lithobates chiricahuensis and the California red-legged frog Rana draytonii.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A study in 2008 of a pond restoration project within pasture in California, USA (Symonds 2008) found that eight livestock ponds had been restored by ranchers with more restorations planned. To encourage participation, regulatory agencies developed a coordinated permit for pond restorations. The new system enabled ranchers to go to one, rather than up to six, agencies to obtain permits and funding for pond and other management projects. The permit provided guidance on wildlife-friendly pond design and management. Ranchers who participated in the programme were given assurances that they would not encounter extra regulatory obligations under the Endangered Species Act if they restored and maintained ponds to benefit California red-legged frog Rana draytonii and California tiger salamander Ambystoma californiense.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A controlled study in 2009 of axolotls Ambystoma mexicanum in canals through agricultural land in Xochimilco, Mexico (Valiente et al. 2010) found that filters to improve water quality and exclude competitive fish installed with participation of landowners resulted in increased weight gain of axolotls. Only four of 12 previously marked axolotls were recaptured; however, their weight had increased by 16%. Weight gain was greater than that of axolotls in control colonies over the same period. Farmers benefited from better-quality farm products as a result of improved water quality and from the protection of traditional agricultural practices. In 2009, with participation from farmers, a canal used as a refuge by axolotls was isolated from the main system using filters made of wood. Filters excluded fish and improved water quality.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A study in 2010 of landowner agreements to manage habitats for amphibians in California, USA (Kuyper 2011) found that eight ranchers and a Municipal Utility District enrolled in 30-year agreements. The eight ranchers managed over 4,000 ha and the Municipal Utility District 8,000 ha of habitat for two amphibians of conservation concern, the California red-legged frog Rana draytonii and the California tiger salamander Ambystoma californiense. Data were not provided to determine the effect on target species. Agreements were made between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners, with landowners agreeing to carry out management activities for the benefit of priority conservation species. Management included maintenance of stock ponds and surrounding uplands and bullfrog and fish removal. At the end of the agreement landowners were authorized to cease management and return their property to its original condition.

    Study and other actions tested
  7. A study in 2012 of a Houston toad Anaxyrus houstonensis project in Texas, USA (Crump 2012) found that landowners attended a workshop and became involved in habitat restoration and protection. Over 200 landowners attended a workshop on wildlife, woodlands and drought. At least 25 landowners (2,000 ha) expressed interest in the project and participated in some form of restoration and stewardship effort for toad habitat. In 2012, a workshop was hosted for landowners, who owned the majority of remaining habitat for the toads. Topics included forest resiliency, wildlife management, Houston toad ecology and landowner cost-share and assistance programmes.

    Study and other actions tested
  8. A study in 2012 of the Million Ponds Project in England and Wales, UK (Million Ponds Project 2012) found that in 2008–2012 the project team worked with landowners and managers to create 1,023 ponds for rare and declining species. Over 60 organizations were involved and more than 1,016 people were trained in pond creation at 57 events. The aim of the 50-year initiative, started in 2008, was to change attitudes so that pond creation becomes a routine activity within land management. Pond creation and management training courses were provided to partner and non-partner organizations. Over 50 factsheets were produced as part of an online toolkit and funding for pond creation was also provided.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Smith, R.K., Meredith, H. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Amphibian Conservation. Pages 9-64 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Amphibian Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Amphibian Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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