BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – One-third of Missouri’s 43 native amphibians have deteriorating populations, but you can help out by taking some steps to make your backyard more attractive to amphibians, said a University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.

“Amphibians native to Missouri play an integral role in our ecosystems,” said Marlin Bates. Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders feed on insects and rodents and are in turn eaten by larger animals. “Although seldom seen, their presence is indicative of a healthy, sustainable environment. Whether your garden is in a small, rural community or surrounded by urban areas, there are steps that you can take to create backyard habitats for these species.”

To entice amphibians to your garden, you will need a pond or water garden, Bates said. “Water depth has some influence over which species will be attracted, but the restrictions of your property are more likely to determine the size and depth of a pond. Be sure to evaluate maintenance requirements thoroughly before installing a pond.”

Dense vegetation or layers of stone at or near the water’s edge will create a more attractive environment for amphibians by providing shelter during daylight hours and places to lie in wait for insects.

Research shows that native wildlife, including butterflies, birds and amphibians, are attracted to native plants more than nonnative species. By surrounding your water garden or pond with native plant materials, you are creating a small ecosystem in your garden that will be more attractive to amphibian species. “An added bonus, a water garden surrounded by native plants serves as an enjoyable addition to the landscape,” Bates said.

The June 18 field day at MU’s Bradford Research and Extension Center in Columbia will include a program on landscaping with native plants as well as a native plant sale.