Fall is arguably the most beautiful time of the year in Virginia. The leaves are changing and there’s a crisp feel in the air. This is also the time of the year when many species of frog begin to move away from aquatic habitats into the surrounding forested areas in preparation for winter. Leaf-litter is an important component of this habitat and it serves several purposes for frogs and a diversity of other amphibians. Some species even favor particular leaf-litter types as the decomposition process can influence the pH of the soil. Leaf-litter also provides shelter from predators, an abundance of insects for food, and thermal cover for hibernation. It’s not just frogs and other amphibians that benefit from leaf-litter; box turtles, butterflies, insect-eating birds, and many other wildlife all benefit from this mini-ecosystem.
This fall, consider taking it easy with the rake and leave your leaves behind for wildlife. Still want a neat and tidy yard? Try using the leaves as mulch by raking them into your garden or landscaping beds to create rich soil for next spring. Another option is to rake a couple small leaf piles off into an out-of-the-way corner and allow them to decompose naturally and then re-use the compost as rich soil for planting in the spring. If you are one of those folks that enjoy burning your leaf piles, it is best to do so immediately upon creating them. Otherwise, you may accidentally kill some critters that crawled into the leaf pile seeking shelter, and never burn leaf piles in the spring that have sat over winter. By following these tips, you will create less yard work for yourself this fall while helping to make a difference for the frogs and other wildlife in your neighborhood.
This article is presented as part of our year-long Virginia is for Frogs campaign. Please visit the campaign webpage to learn more about Virginia’s 28 frog species and ways that you can become involved in their conservation. Are you an educator? Check out the Virginia is for Frogs Teacher’s Corner for frog-related lesson plans and activities.