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Uncovering the decline of common toads in the UK

Hi, my name is Rémi Martin and I have been invited to post about my PhD which investigates why toads in the UK are declining. During the past two decades, there has been growing concern about the decline of many common toad (Bufo bufo) populations across the UK. Despite recognition of decline, little is known about the extent and its causes (where and why?). This is partly due to a lack of extensive demographic surveying of the common toad population, especially when compared to more emblematic British species such as the natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita).

In absence of such studies, genetic assessment of populations across the country appears as a good approach to quickly assess population health. The main focus of the PhD project consists of gathering genetic samples from diverse populations across the whole of the UK that would help draw a (partial) genetic map of the country.

Samples are collected by non-invasive mouth swabbing. Looking also at museum specimens (including some of those maintained in Manchester Museum’s collection) will also enable us to compare past and present genetic diversity for some precise localities, giving us more clues into understanding fluctuations in the size of populations. Restricted to some specific localities in Shropshire, we would also like to take a closer look at the potential causes involved in population decline, monitoring some environmental contaminant in ponds during tadpole development.

Overall this project is a first step towards answering the question: where are populations declining?  But much more would be needed to answer the question: why? A mixture of various factors is expected to be responsible for decline and the relative importance of each factor is likely to vary locally. We hope the results generated by this research (that are yet to come) will give some insight into understanding the common toad rarefaction in Britain and serve as a basis for future conservation actions at the national level.

Common toad, Bufo Bufo

UNIVERSITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON

Bufo bufo Project

ARC Trust

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