The class of amphibians (Amphibia) comprises about 6,000 species worldwide, 21 of which are also found in Germany. Amphibians were the first vertebrates to walk on land about 350 to 400 million years ago. Amphibians are characterised by the fact that, despite their limbs, they have to go into the water to reproduce and they can live both on land and in the water. Amphibians also undergo a metamporphosis from larva to adult, with larvae growing up in water and breathing through gills. At the end of their larval stage, amphibians have developed lungs and they can walk on land. Amphibians also have a skin with a layer of mucus, they are cold-blooded - their body temperature therefore depends mainly on the ambient temperature and they can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Zwei Erdkrötel liegen zur Paarungszeit aufeinander. Das untere Tier ist größer und das Weibchen. © W. Stürzbecher
Here you can see two common toads at mating time, the lower animal is the female.

The common toad is more or less evenly distributed throughout the area. Preferred spawning sites are found on the reed banks of the numerous lakes and small water bodies.

Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)

Ein Kammolch wird in einer Hand gehalten. © M. Hippke
The northern crested newt is Germany's largest newt species.

The inhabited waters are predominantly larger, well-sunned, perennial tarns and ponds with clear water and well-developed underwater vegetation. Overall, there are large distribution gaps and population sizes are mostly small.

Common Spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus)

This species inhabits very differently structured water bodies. The decisive ecological parameter for the common spadefoot toad does not seem to be primarily the quality of the spawning waters, but rather the location of suitable summer habitats. It requires open, diggable soils and is therefore mostly distributed in sandy areas. Corresponding small occurrences are located near the former German border strip.

Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita)

So far, there is only evidence of this species through animals calling. The water body is a shallow, completely structureless and vegetationless, drying up agricultural depression. For pioneer species such as the natterjack toad, such bodies of water, which only exist for a short time, are of decisive ecological importance, since predators are absent there and the warm water enables rapid development of the tadpoles.

European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

Ein grüner Laubfrosch auf einem Blatt. © W. Stürzbecher
The classic green European tree frog is one of the most common amphibians in the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee.

The European tree frog occurs in large numbers in almost all utilised open land biotopes of the Biosphere Reserve, regardless of whether these are used as grassland, pastures, fields or fallow land. The spawning waters must be close to its summer habitats. These are fallows, hedges, bushes and forest edges. Large, shallow and unshaded waters are preferred for spawning.

Moor Frog (Rana arvalis)

Moorfrösche schwimmen an der Wasseroberfläche. © O. Ulmer
Moor frogs swim along a reed belt of a lakeshore in the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee.

The moor frog is widespread throughout the Biosphere Reserve. Grassland waters with or near woods are the preferred habitats. Flooded quarry forests, where cranes also like to breed, are usually home to very large populations of moor frogs. The species often occur together with other amphibian species.

European Fire-Bellied Toad (Bombina bombina)

Eine Rotbauchunke im Wasser. Der Körper ist durch Algen bedeckt. © W. Spillner
The Biosphere Reserve Office Schaalsee-Elbe contributes to the protection of the fire-bellied toad by creating small water bodies.

Apart from a few occurrences in northern Schleswig-Holstein, the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee is located approximately at the western limit of the fire-bellied toad's distribution in Germany. The majority of all water bodies colonised by fire-bellied toads are located in grassland, often at the edge of or near forests. However, water bodies with populations of individual fire-bellied toads can also be found on arable land. Large, extensively used, semi-open pasture landscapes are of outstanding importance. The best populated water bodies are fully sunny, have a year-round water-bearing area with clear water and a wide marginal zone with temporary water flow. Well-formed small reeds and a wide floodplain grass belt are important. There, the tadpoles can develop quickly in the shallow, warm water, protected from fish and other predators.

Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda)

A hybrid or mixed population of common water frog and marsh frog was found in a water body on the island of Kampenwerder. This is the only record from the region so far. There are currently no further reliable findings about this occurrence.

Common Water Frog (Rana kl. esculenta)

Ein Teichfrosch sitzt auf einem Seerosenblatt. © W. Stürzbecher
The common water frog is a hybrid or crossbreed of the marsh frog and the pool frog and has characteristics of both species.

The common water frog is distributed throughout the entire area. However, larger lakes, forests, moorland and dry farmland are not naturally inhabited. Suboptimal water bodies, which are of no importance for other amphibian species, are also colonised. These include small water bodies, drainage ditches and eutrophic village ponds. However, larger populations are only established in favourably developed water bodies. These must be fully sunny and have a shallow, easily warmed water body with clear water. There should be few predators, especially fish. Open, shallow grassland waters with grazed banks are of utmost importance for the common water frog.

Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris)

Ein Teichmolch im Wasser. © B. Fellner
The smooth newt is the most common species of the five newts found in Germany.

The smooth newt is widespread. It prefers larger sunlit water bodies with well-developed riparian vegetation, wide sedimentation belts and sedge meadows rich in structure. The majority of smooth newt occurrences are connected to wooded areas or fallow land, which are frequented by smooth newts outside the spawning season.

European Green Toad (Bufo viridis)

So far, small, isolated occurrences have been found at three water bodies. These waters have pioneer character. Two of them are long, widened and partly deeply cut drainage ditches with sunny and vegetation-poor banks. The third water body is a shallow, structurally poor field depression on clay soil. The identified spawning sites are located near open, dry and sandy biotopes. These are popular summer habitats.