Ireland is unendowed with amphibians supporting a miserly three species – the scarce Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita) or cnádán which is confined to a small number of coastal sites around
the Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas in West Kerry, the widespread Common or Grass frog (Rana temporaria) or loscán and the elusive Smooth or Common newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) or earc luachra.
Hence, only two of the three species can be found in Offaly with frogs occasionally being found during survey work on the farms. Though lacking in diversity in Ireland, the amphibians we do have are a central part of many food webs providing food resources as prey for numerous animals from stoats to raptors. As predators they eat insect pests which damage crops and spread plant disease and help control mosquitos and biting flies which benefits human health. Their moist, permeable skin makes amphibians vulnerable to drought and toxic substances, so they are exceptional indicators of ecosystem health.
Amphibians also affect ecosystem structure through soil burrowing and aquatic bioturbation and ecosystem functions such as decomposition and nutrient cycling through waste excretion and indirectly.
Rewetting peatlands is a key measure of the Farm Carbon program with a particular concern that drained peatlands are one of Ireland’s biggest single sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Added to that is the fact that once drained they lose their capacity to store water and regulate water flow, protect against flooding and of course lose much of their rare biodiversity.
Rewetting the large drains that typically run by fields and bogs requires diggers and the same diggers provide the opportunity to create ponds which are invaluable for wildlife supporting an extraordinary two thirds of all freshwater species so that creating clean new ponds is one of the simplest and most effective ways to protect our freshwater wildlife and plant species.
Besides amphibians, ponds are home to a huge variety of interesting invertebrates such as pond-skaters, water beetles, water snails, larvae of dragonfly, damselfly and caddisfly, water fleas, water crickets and even water scorpions! Also to be found in ponds is the Annex II species the White-clawed crayfish for which Ireland is an international stronghold.
Many of the small birds which visit our gardens will also use ponds to drink and bathe as will mammals and larger ponds of the kind we have created can attract threatened wetland birds and waterfowl such as swans, mallard and other ducks and moorhens.
In addition, other threatened wetland birds such as lapwing, redshank and snipe like ponds in the semi-natural areas where our ponds are sited. Also frequenting ponds may be heron, water rail, coot and migratory wading birds, while in the summer they will provide insects for martens and swallows during the day and bats and otter at night.
For amphibians anyway it’s settled – new ponds provide a significant boosts to their population – BBC article, https://www.conservationevidence.com/actions/865 (frogs), https://www.conservationevidence.com/actions/869 (amphibians), https://www.conservationevidence.com/actions/867 (newts), https://www.conservationevidence.com/actions/863 (newts). Here’s hoping the same applies to all their fellow pond-dwellers!