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STABILIZING POPULATIONS AND EXTENDING THEIR RANGES
Surveys in Lower Saxony

Natterjack toad, common spadefoot, smooth snake and sand lizard in the Atlantic region

Common spadefoot sitting in the sand

Adult common spadefoot during spawning migration on a sandy field near Breddorf, County of Rotenburg (Wümme). © Tasso Schikore

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In Lower Saxony, the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), the common spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus), the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) and the floating water-plantain (Luronium natans) have been selected as focus species for the LIFE Integrated Project ‘Atlantic Region DE’. For these species, targeted measures are to be implemented in order to improve the unfavourable or bad conservation status following the current assessment under the Habitats Directive, or at least to halt or reverse the negative trend in population development.

While there is a very good overview available upon the current distribution of the floating water-plantain in Lower Saxony, this does not apply to the other focus species. The current distribution of many animal and plant species in Lower Saxony is poorly understood because quantitative surveys of some species, which have a secretive way of living (like the smooth snake), are difficult and systematic or comprehensive mapping is lacking. In the statewide database of the Lower Saxony Water Management, Coastal Defence and Nature Conservation Agency (NLWKN), for many previously reported areas with occurrence of the species only insufficient updates are available in the form of detection reports. Therefore, at the beginning of the LIFE IP, it had not been possible to determine the current distribution areas of the four focus species in Lower Saxony sufficiently. In the application phase of the project, it was therefore taken into account that the current populations of the four focus species, in particular in the northwestern part of Lower Saxony, need to be examined fundamentally in order to obtain an overview of the current distribution.

Tadpole on a hand

Tadpole of the common spadefoot during the mapping in the County of Stade. © Hilger Lemke

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For the preparatory action A6, ten counties in northwestern Lower Saxony were selected, in which the occurrences of the four species were known only to a very limited extent and were characterized by areal boundaries, and should therefore be investigated by means of special mapping. In the course of the database consolidation of the Lower Saxony Animal Regording Program, however, it emerged that for a large number of old detection reports there have been no updates in a broader area of ​​the Atlantic biogeographical region in Lower Saxony. Therefore, the decision was made to commission more comprehensive, standardized mappings in 2018 to survey records which were more than ten years old, but also potentially suitable areas in order to obtain an up-to-date picture of the population situation of the four focus species in the Atlantic biogeographical region. The required financial resources which were made available by survey means of the state of Lower Saxony.

The mapping of the four focus species will take place from April to October 2018 according to a defined methodology which will also allow for an assessment of the conservation status of the local populations. The findings gained from the results are intended to enable further analysis in which regions of Lower Saxony measures for the preservation of populations may be reasonable from a professional point of view. Based on this, spatial-temporal prioritizations for particularly necessary measures will be derived.

The principle "We only protect what we know" is well known. As a result, all wildlife professionals or volunteers in mapping of animal and plant species are requested to report their data to the NLWKN. Thus, the records can be used for the monitoring of populations as well as measures for their protection.

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