It's not easy being green, or brown, or spotted, but controlled burns might not be hard for toads


There is a general consensus that we don’t know enough about how fire affects Appalachian amphibians and reptiles. In a 2013 paper, Clemson University researchers took a step in the right direction by tracking American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) to explore how fuel reduction treatments affect toad breeding, mortality, and movement. Toads were captured after leaving their winter shelters and were tracked with VHF transmitters through their breeding season. The researchers compared the movement of toads captured in areas that were later cleared of their understory with either prescribed burns, mechanical removal, or a combination of burning and mechanical removal. During the study, the toads migrated to a single pond for breeding, regardless of the area where they were originally captured. The researchers found evidence that prescribed fire did not inhibit the migratory movements and did not injure any toads. However, fire did damage the transmitters on any toads that stayed on site during a burn. This seems like good news, but the authors are careful to point out that this species of toad may be particularly well suited to burn conditions. Prescribed burns could still reduce safe habitat for amphibians and larger scale studies are needed to be sure.