Simple Fences Could Slow the Unstoppable Cane Toad


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Invasive cane toads in Australia have proven impervious to beer-bribed hunters, native species, and even the continent's oppressive heat but the solution, according to new research, may be as simple as a string of low fences.

Unlike Australia's indigenous amphibians, which have adapted to the generally arid climate, cane toads need access to standing water in order to survive—and fences could be used to restrict that access.Currently, man-made water sources, like irrigation canals, are providing "stepping stones" for the toads, allowing them to move deeper into Australia's arid interior. The toads already cover 463,000 square miles of Queensland and the Northern Territory and advance up to 30 miles per year. Another 386,000 square feet—an area roughly twice the size of France—is under direct threat from the advance.

Placing fences around man-made water sources could protect this threatened area.

Tim Dempster, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, explained:

Basically, step by step, toads use these water points to invade the drier regions of Australia...by stopping toads from using these water points, we are removing their 'stepping stones' in the landscape.

In an experiment, Dempster placed cloth netting, 24 inches high, between a group of toads and a man-made water source. He also observed an unfenced water point elsewhere in the Northern Territory. Near the fenced water point, all 21 nearby toads died—most within 12 hours.

"The greatest benefit from the technique," Dempster said, "will be to stop further invasion into several of Australia's drier inland areas which are hotspots of unique native animal biodiversity."

After decades of searching, it turns out that the best solution to this invasive species problem may be a very simple one.

Read more about cane toads:
Invasion! Cane Toads Unstoppable in Australian Heat
Runaway Evolution Speeding Impact of Cane Toad Invasion
A Fairy Tale Provides Inspiration for a New Weapon in the Battle Against the Cane Toad

Tags: Animals | Conservation

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