Amphibians need healthy, intact habitat to survive, whether deep in the Amazon or here in Chicago. They need ponds for breeding and developing. Tadpoles need a healthy diet of aquatic plants and tiny insect larvae—called macroinvertebrates—which thrive in ponds with abundant light and plants. Adult frogs and salamanders need food on land. They also need shelter from dryness, cold and predators.
But even within protected natural areas, amphibian habitats are in trouble. The reason is that many of our woodlands and prairies are unhealthy — they are filled with invasive species that are choking out the hundreds of native wildflowers, grasses and trees that support wildlife. These habitats need our help.
Through amphibian-focused Great Lakes Action Days (GLADs), we are restoring healthy habitat and increasing biodiversity around amphibian breeding ponds. Invasive species such as European buckthorn crowd out most other plant species, leaving nothing but bare ground underneath. GLAD volunteers remove buckthorn and other invasive plants, and then we spread the seeds of nearly 100 native plant species on the ground to increase biodiversity.
These wildflowers, grasses and sedges will in turn attract hundreds of caterpillars, leafhoppers, grasshoppers, snails, ants and many other invertebrates that are the foundation of the food web, not to mention herbivores such as mice, voles and deer. Our work is restoring a rich tapestry of biodiversity to support amphibians and all of the life that makes up our healthy, resilient woodlands and prairies.