Amphibians are small vertebrate animals with naked skin (without fur, feather or scales) that have adapted to life both in water environments, where they reproduce, and also in humid land environments.
In Portugal they can be divided into two groups: the caudata, species that develop a tail in adult stage, such as salamanders (usually more terrestrial), and the newts (more aquatic);
and the anura, which do not have tails in the adult stage and include toads (more terrestrial), frogs (more aquatic) and tree frogs (arboreal and climber frogs).
The amphibians are extremely well suited to survive in temporary occurrences of water, where there are no fish, and represent the group of vertebrates with the most important ecological role.
The larvae from anura, also called tadpoles, feed on debris and algae, and therefore are contributing to the improvement of water quality. The larvae from caudate are carnivore and feed mainly on invertebrates (e.g. mosquito larvae) and by doing this they contribute to control such populations.
In their adult stage, both the anura and the caudate feed on insects, worms and molluscs, while some species may even feed on larger animals. On the other hand, at different stages of development, the amphibians are preyed by many other animal species, such as invertebrates (e.g. Triops vicentinus), birds, reptiles, mammals and even some other species of amphibians.
Due to the effect of Atlantic moist winds, the coastal areas of Southwest Portugal have a moderate climate, Atlantic-Mediterranean, which favours the presence of 13 species of amphibians: Iberian ribbed newt (Pleurodeles waltl), fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra crespoi), Iberian newt (Lissotriton boscai), southern marbled newt (Triturus pygmaeus), Iberian painted frog (Discoglossus galganoi), Iberian midwife toad (Alytes cisternasii), common parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus), Iberian spadefoot toad (Pelobates cultripes), natterjack toad (Bufo calamita), common toad (Bufo spinosus), European tree frog (Hyla molleri), Mediterranean tree frog (Hyla meridionalis), and the Iberian waterfrog (Pelophylax perezi).
All these species find the adequate reproduction conditions in the Mediterranean Temporary Ponds, although some not always do so and prefer to resort to other masses of water (Alytes cisternasii and Bufo spinosus).
The main threats to these fascinating animals are the destruction and pollution of their reproduction and sheltering sites (during the warmer months many species aestivate), as well as the introduction of exotic species, such as the western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii), which voraciously predates on the eggs, larvae and juvenile of amphibians.
These species do not have a protection status in Portugal (Red Book of Vertebrates) - except for the Iberian painted frog that has the status of least concern (LC) in IUCN list. Nevertheless, the threats that they are facing may cause the disappearance of many amphibian populations, with serious environmental damages and other consequences.
Out of the 13 species of amphibians found in the intervention area of this project LIFE, 8 will be highlighted here due to their peculiarity, both ecological and genetic.