Bombina in the Baltic Region - Management of fire-bellied toads in the Baltic region

LIFE04 NAT/DE/000028

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Hauke DREWS
Tel: +49 431 2109055
Fax: +49 431 2109099
Email: drews@sn-sh.de

Project description:


The fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) was once a common inhabitant of the agricultural landscape around the Baltic Sea, but recent intensification and land consolidation in the arable fields have affected it severely. The sunny pools it vitally needed were filled in to make way for productive land, or else the fields they were in were abandoned so that the pools became overgrown and shaded. Natural protection for the toads´ hibernation during the wet and cold wintertime was cleared away, so these rather vulnerable creatures became easy prey for any predator.

While numbers of fire-bellied toads underwent a severe decline during the last decades overall, not all populations suffered to the same degree. Individual circumstances on-site gave no clear indication for the reasons for such different population trends. An earlier LIFE project, focusing on the Bombina bombina in Denmark, (LIFE99 NAT/DK/006454) made some progress towards solving these puzzles, but at the same time it exposed other weaknesses in toad management that needed to be addressed.


To tackle this transnational problem in an appropriate way and to find best practice solutions, the German beneficiary assembled active toad conservation groups in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Latvia. A genetic analysis would be carried out of all relevant populations in the participating regions. The aim was to shed more light on the different populations and their behaviour. Its results would also be used to introduce genetically appropriate animals from captive breeding to rejuvenate certain selected wild populations.

On site, a range of habitat improvement actions would be carried out including new ponds and hibernation sites. Hardy breeds of animals (e.g. small herds of cattle and Konik horses) would be deployed to secure and maintain the unshaded pools in grassland habitats, favoured by the toads.

Another important aspect of the project would be international networking between the partners, through annual workshops around the Baltic Sea. This was expected to yield several outputs useful for anyone interested in amphibian conservation. The project´s planned use of the latest techniques of genetic analysis in order to advance nature conservation work, might also yield results worth disseminating.


The project’s aim was to increase the population size of threatened populations of the fire-bellied toad of the Baltic region. The project site had been at the edge of the Northern distribution area of this species – an area where the fire-bellied toad has suffered particularly. In Sweden this species became extinct in the 1960s. In Latvia only two nature protection areas, each with less than 50 individuals remained. Also in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany) and in Denmark the number of spawning pools declined in the last decades drastically.

The project was very successful. Some 200 new ponds and 75 hibernation sites were created as new habitats for the fire-bellied toads. Additionally, year-long grazing with robust grazing animals was established. This is important for the long term maintenance of the right vegetation structures at the ponds and the creation of suitable habitats around the ponds.

As well as these concrete restoration measures, population management techniques were applied in order to support and maintain isolated population of toads in a limited time period. Through artificial breeding of toad spawn the loss of amphibian offspring that usually occurs in a natural situation can be prevented. These efforts were accompanied by intensive genetic analysis which helped to preserve endangered populations and their gene pool.

The ecological effects of the LIFE project were remarkable. The population sizes of the fire-bellied toads have more than doubled on the project sites. This shows that the project measures have been really effective. Moreover, through the establishment of year-round grazing schemes through robust cattle and horses the long-term sustainability of these effects is ensured. As a result, the various protection measures prevented the extinction of the fire-bellied toad in many project sites in Latvia, Germany and Denmark and stabilised and expanded the populations again.

Another important success of the project involved its extensive public relation measures including the development of a project website, several flyers, and various excursions. Notably, the project devised and successfully carried out in 2007 and 2009, an innovative “Bombina Song Contest”. This online (audio streaming) event attracted high media attention (including TV coverage) in several countries.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Amphibians


environmentally responsible behaviour‚  aquatic ecosystem‚  conservation of genetic resources‚  ecological assessment‚  environmental impact of agriculture‚  informal negotiation‚  restoration measure‚  information network‚  conflicting use‚  management contract‚  population dynamics‚  freshwater ecosystem‚  grassland ecosystem‚  grazing‚  introduction of animal species‚  monitoring‚  wetlands ecosystem‚  wildlife sanctuary‚  decision making support‚  indicator‚  evaluation method

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" ...
  • Land & Soil
  • Regulation 1257/1999 - Support for rural development from the European Agricultural Guidance and ...

Target species

 Bombina bombina     

Natura 2000 sites

SPA DK008X071 Sydfynske Øhav
SCI DK005Y229 Skælskør Fjord og havet og kysten mellem Agersø og Glænø
SCI DK006X234 Havet og kysten mellem Karrebæk Fjord og Knudshoved Odde
SCI DK008X192 Søer ved Tårup og Klintholm
SCI DK008X199 Vestlige del af Avernakø
SCI DK008X201 Sydfynske Øhav
SCI SE0420130 Bäckhalladalen
SCI SE0430082 Möllehässle-Kullens havsbad
SCI SE0430116 Skoghusets enefälad
SCI SE0430122 Fredriksbergs mosse
SCI DE1729391 Dannauer See und Hohensasel und Umgebung
SCI DE2330391 Salemer Moor und angrenzende Wälder und Seen
SCI LTZAR0007 Ilgasilis
SCI LV0304100 Bauska
SCI LV0502900 Islice



Coordinator Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein is a regional NGO-foundation focusing on nature conservation in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Its aim is to preserve biotopes and habitats. It also establishes recreation sites for nature tourism and is involved in research on large-scale grazing projects.
Partners DFNA (Danish Forest and Nature Agency) Fyns Amt, Denmark Storstrøms Amt, Denmark Latgales Ekologiska Biedriba, Latvia Copenhagen Zoo, Denmark Amphi Consult, Denmark Landesamt für Natur und Umwelt Schleswig-Holstein, Germany


Project reference LIFE04 NAT/DE/000028
Duration 01-APR-2004 to 31-DEC -2009
Total budget 2,266,293.00 €
EU contribution 1,064,233.00 €
Project location Schleswig-Holstein(Deutschland) Vestjællands amt(Danmark) Storstrøms amt(Danmark) Fyns amt(Danmark) Associated Latvia (LV)(Latvia Latvija) Sydsverige(Sverige)


Read more:

Leaflet Project's leaflet (1.7 MB)
Leaflet Faltblatt des Projektes (1.6 MB)
Project web site Project's website
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Managing Bombina bombina in the Baltic reg ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Final technical report (25 MB!)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version