Conflicts Between Urban Growth and Species Protection: Can Midwife Toads (Alytes obstetricans) Resist the Pressure?

M. J. Castro, J. M. Oliveira, A. Tari


Urban areas are expanding on a global scale. Thus, conflicts between species protection and urban growth are increasingly common. Biodiversity conservation is traditionally associated with pristine habitats. Nevertheless, urban areas may show high levels of species diversity, particularly regarding herpetofauna, which should deserve especial attention. In the city of Coimbra (Portugal) occurs a population of midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) restricted to the surrounding area of the football field in Santa Cruz Park. This Park became engulfed in the urban area, therefore originating an isolated population of midwife toads. These amphibians are threatened by habitat destruction due to construction works that will take place in the football field. Species conservation efforts may be especially rewarded in the particular case of the amphibians because certain populations, such as this particular population of midwife toads, may require simple protection measures. Our 2.5 year study on this population shows that midwife toads’ habitat requirements are: permanent waterbody, accessibility of refuge areas and vegetation to ensure prey availability. According to these data, midwife toads’ protection and urban development seem compatible. Our study indicates that midwife toads may resist urban growth pressure if: 1) habitat requirements are carefully studied to ensure population survival; 2) protection measures are designed in accordance to habitat requirements and urban development; 3) interdisciplinary cooperation is promoted among conservation biology, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering; 4) discussion occurs among key actors. Achievement of these principles in urban areas provides, beside conservation purposes, benefits for local people including recreational and wildlife oriented activities and environmental education.


conservation; biodiversity; urban ecology; Alytes obstetricans; urban growth; amphibians

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