Skip to main content

Land abandonment may reduce disturbance and affect the breeding sites of an Endangered amphibian in northern Italy

  • Stefano Canessa (a1), Fabrizio Oneto (a2), Dario Ottonello (a2), Attilio Arillo (a2) and Sebastiano Salvidio (a2)...

Although human-related disturbance is usually detrimental for biodiversity, in some instances it can simulate natural processes and benefit certain species. Changes in the disturbance regime, both natural and human-driven, can affect species that rely on it. The Apennine yellow-bellied toad Bombina variegata pachypus, an amphibian endemic to peninsular Italy, has declined throughout its range in the last 3 decades. We sought to identify the drivers of the decline in the region of Liguria, at the north-western limit of its distribution. In 2009 and 2010 we surveyed sites where the species occurred until 2005 and related the persistence of breeding activity to the characteristics of sites. Populations had disappeared from 50% of the sites between 2005 and 2009. Current breeding sites have less aquatic and bank vegetation, fewer predators and better insolation. Frequent disturbance events (desiccation and floods) were related to reduced vegetation, which in turn may decrease predator densities and increase insolation. In this region disturbance is provided by natural factors or, in the case of artificial water bodies, by regular maintenance carried out by landowners. The widespread land abandonment in Liguria can disrupt disturbance regimes, interrupting the removal of vegetation, and thus rapidly reduce the suitability of artificial sites. This was confirmed in our study, with most abandoned breeding sites occurring in formerly cultivated areas. Possible short-term conservation actions include creating new ponds, maintaining artificial water bodies and clearing vegetation. However, long-term conservation may be more problematic as the land abandonment process is unlikely to be reversed.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Land abandonment may reduce disturbance and affect the breeding sites of an Endangered amphibian in northern Italy
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Land abandonment may reduce disturbance and affect the breeding sites of an Endangered amphibian in northern Italy
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Land abandonment may reduce disturbance and affect the breeding sites of an Endangered amphibian in northern Italy
      Available formats
Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
Andreone, F., Corti, C., Sindaco, R., Romano, A., Giachi, F., Vanni, S. & Delfino, G. (2009) Bombina pachypus. In IUCN Red List of Threatened Species v. 2012.2. Http:// [accessed 22 January 2013].
Arillo, A., Braida, L., Canessa, S., Ferravante, C., Oneto, F., Ottonello, D. & Salvidio, S. (2011) Azioni di salvaguardia di Bombina pachypus (Bonaparte, 1838) in Liguria. Pianura, 27, 171173.
Arillo, A., Braida, L., Canessa, S., Oneto, F., Ottonello, D. & Raineri, A. (2009) Problematiche di conservazione delle popolazioni di Bombina pachypus (Bonaparte, 1838) in Liguria. Bollettino dei Musei e degli Istituti Biologici Universitari di Genova, 71, 89.
Bang, C. (2001) Constructed wetlands: high-quality habitats for Odonata in cultivated landscapes. International Journal of Odonatology, 4, 115.
Barandun, J. (1990) Reproduction of yellow-bellied toads Bombina variegata in a man-made habitat. Amphibia–Reptilia, 11, 277284.
Barandun, J. & Reyer, H.-U. (1997a) Reproductive ecology of Bombina variegata: development of eggs and larvae. Journal of Herpetology, 31, 107110.
Barandun, J. & Reyer, H.-U. (1997b) Reproductive ecology of Bombina variegata: characterisation of spawning ponds. Amphibia–Reptilia, 18, 143154.
Barbieri, F., Bernini, F., Guarino, F.M. & Venchi, A. (2004) Distribution and conservation status of Bombina variegata in Italy (Amphibia, Bombinatoridae). Italian Journal of Zoology, 71, 8390.
Beja, P. & Alcazar, R. (2003) Conservation of Mediterranean temporary ponds under agricultural intensification: an evaluation using amphibians. Biological Conservation, 114, 317326.
Bignal, E.M. & McCracken, D.I. (2000) The nature conservation value of European traditional farming systems. Environmental Reviews, 8, 149171.
Brawn, J.D., Robinson, S.K. & Thompson, F.R. III (2001) The role of disturbance in the ecology and conservation of birds. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 32, 251276.
Bray, J.R. & Curtis, J.T. (1957) An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecological Monographs, 27, 325349.
Burnham, K.P. & Anderson, D.R. (2002) Model Selection and Multimodal Inference: A Practical Information-theoretic Approach. Springer-Verlag, New York, USA.
Canestrelli, D., Cimmaruta, R., Costantini, V. & Nascetti, G. (2006) Genetic diversity and phylogeography of the Apennine yellow-bellied toad Bombina pachypus, with implications for conservation. Molecular Ecology, 15, 37413754.
Carchini, G., Solimini, A.G. & Ruggiero, A. (2005) Habitat characteristics and odonate diversity in mountain ponds of central Italy. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 15, 573581.
Cushman, S.A. (2006) Effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on amphibians: a review and prospectus. Biological Conservation, 128, 231240.
Doria, G. & Salvidio, S. (1994) Atlante degli anfibi e dei rettili della Liguria. Regione Liguria, Cataloghi dei Beni Naturali 2. Genova, Italy.
European Environmental Agency (2007) CLC2006 Technical Guidelines. EEA Technical Report, No. 17/2007. Copenhagen, Denmark. [Http://, accessed 22 January 2013].
Ficetola, G.F. & De Bernardi, F. (2004) Amphibians in a human-dominated landscape: the community structure is related to habitat features and isolation. Biological Conservation, 119, 219230.
Gentili, R., Gentili, E. & Sgorbati, S. (2009) Crop changes from the XVI century to the present in a hill/mountain area of eastern Liguria (Italy). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 5, 9.
Guarino, F.M., Bellini, L., Mazzarella, G. & Angelini, F. (1998) Reproductive activity of Bombina pachypus from southern Italy. Italian Journal of Zoology, 65, 4, 335342.
Hartel, T. (2008) Movement activity in a Bombina variegata population from a deciduous forested landscape. North-Western Journal of Zoology, 4, 7990.
Hartel, T., Nemes, S. & Mara, G. (2007) Breeding phenology and spatio-temporal dynamics of pond use by the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata) population: the importance of pond availability and duration. Acta Zoologica Lituanica, 17, 5663.
Hofman, S., Spolsky, C., Uzzell, T., Cogălniceanu, D., Babik, W. & Szymura, J.M. (2007) Phylogeography of the fire-bellied toads Bombina: independent Pleistocene histories inferred from mitochondrial genomes. Molecular Ecology, 16, 23012316.
Knutson, M.G., Richardson, W.B., Reineke, D.M., Gray, B.R., Parmelee, J.R. & Weick, S.E. (2004) Agricultural ponds support amphibian populations. Ecological Applications, 14, 669684.
MacDonald, D., Crabtree, J.R., Wiesinger, G., Dax, T., Stamou, N., Fleury, P., et al. (2000) Agricultural abandonment in mountain areas of Europe: environmental consequences and policy response. Journal of Environmental Management, 59, 4769.
Mazzoleni, S., Pasquale, G.D., Mulligan, M., Martino, P.D. & Rego, F. (2004) Recent Dynamics of the Mediterranean Vegetation and Landscape. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, New York, USA.
Minchin, P.R. (1987) An evaluation of the relative robustness of techniques for ecological ordination. Plant Ecology, 69, 89107.
Mirabile, M., Melletti, M., Venchi, A. & Bologna, M.A. (2009) The reproduction of the Apennine yellow-bellied toad (Bombina pachypus) in central Italy. Amphibia–Reptilia, 30, 303312.
Oksanen, J., Blanchet, F.G., Kindt, R., Legendre, P., O'Hara, R.G., Simpson, G.L. et al. (2010) Vegan: community ecology package. R package version 1.17–2. Http:// [accessed 22 January 2013].
Painter, D. (1998) Effects of ditch management patterns on Odonata at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, UK. Biological Conservation, 84, 189195.
Petraitis, P.S., Latham, R.E. & Niesenbaum, R.A. (1989) The maintenance of species diversity by disturbance. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 64, 393418.
Pykala, J. (2000) Mitigating human effects on European biodiversity through traditional animal husbandry. Conservation Biology, 14, 705712.
Rydgren, K., Okland, R.H., Pico, F.X. & de Kroon, H. (2007) Moss species benefits from breakdown of cyclic rodent dynamics in boreal forests. Ecology, 88, 23202329.
Sebasti, S. & Carpaneto, G.M. (2004) An ecological study of amphibian communities inhabiting the dewponds of a lowland deciduous forest along the Tyrrhenian coast (central Italy). Italian Journal of Zoology, 71, 135141.
Sirami, C., Brotons, L., Burfield, I., Fonderflick, J. & Martin, J.-L. (2008) Is land abandonment having an impact on biodiversity? A meta-analytical approach to bird distribution changes in the north-western Mediterranean. Biological Conservation, 141, 450459.
Speare, R., Berger, L., Skerratt, L.F., Alford, R.A., Mendez, D., Cashins, S., et al. (2004) Hygiene Protocol for Handling Amphibians in Field Studies. Amphibian Disease Group, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia. [Http://, accessed 22 January 2013].
Stagni, G., Dall'Olio, R., Fusini, U., Mazzotti, S., Scoccianti, C. & Serra, A. (2004) Declining populations of Apennine yellow-bellied toad Bombina pachypus in the northern Apennines (Italy): is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis the main cause? Italian Journal of Zoology, 71, 151154.
Twisk, W., Noordervliet, M.A.W. & ter Keurs, W.J. (2000) Effects of ditch management on caddisfly, dragonfly and amphibian larvae in intensively farmed peat areas. Aquatic Ecology, 34, 397411.
Vorndran, I.C., Reichwaldt, E. & Nürnberger, B. (2002) Does differential susceptibility to predation in tadpoles stabilize the Bombina hybrid zone? Ecology, 83, 16481659.
Warren, S.D. & Buttner, R. (2008) Relationship of endangered amphibians to landscape disturbance. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 72, 738744.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed