Host blog by Paolo Eusebio Bergò, Daniele Seglie, Giovanni Soldato. Photos © Paolo Eusebio Bergò
Despite the many efforts for Spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus) conservation made in Italy since the 80s (that involved associations, public authority and private companies in national, regional and local projects) most of its populations are in constant decline and in serious danger of extinction.
Almost all reproductive sites monitored regularly in recent years have required urgent management measures, often costly both in terms of time and money, to prevent the complete population extinctions. During 2012 and 2013, a monitoring program in the Site of Communitary Importance (SCI) “Paludi di Arsago” (Province of Varese, Lombardy) radically changed the knowledge of the species conservation status in this moraine area. Indeed, results of the two years of research showed that in this well-preserved natural environment are present 17 reproductive sub-populations; moreover, in one of the most extended wetland, using drift fence and pitfall traps array, have been captured more than 1700 adult individual, thus discovering the largest Italian population. The monitoring program has been imposed by Lombard Park of the Ticino Valley as compensatory measures of the construction of a gas pipeline along the SCI border, and it was founded by contractor itself; this shows how some potential invasive works, after a detailed environmental impact assessment, could provide resources for studies and management actions otherwise difficult to obtain.
The SCI “Paludi di Arsago” is the only area in Italy where the spadefoot toad seems do not experience the rapid decline that the species has suffered in the majority of its Italian range. For this reason this site is of crucial importance to the conservation of the species: ecological, biological and hydrological aspects of this morainic territory should be investigated in order to make a revision of the national conservation strategy for Pelobates fuscus; revision that, in the light of the poor outcomes of the previous conservation efforts, is urgent and necessary to plan the future conservation actions and carry out the national action plan.