Garden ponds create an important habitat for wildlifeCredit: Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph Lead author Dr Stephen J Price said: “Ranavirus is one of the most serious health threats currently facing the UK’s amphibian population, so our findings that humans seem to have helped move the virus around, facilitating its rapid spread, could be translated into some straightforward ways to manage the risk of disease outbreaks.”It seems that well-meaning homeowners stocking their garden ponds with frogs, fish or spawn translocated from neighbouring ponds or beyond could inadvertently be fuelling the spread of this serious amphibian disease.”We certainly don’t want to discourage people from adding ponds to their urban gardens – this remains one of the most positive steps we can all take to support wildlife – but equally we would strongly urge people to try to limit how much potentially infectious material they’re moving into and out of their gardens in the process.”The study was led by the Zoological Society of London and Queen Mary University of London, along with University College London and Herpetofauna Consultants International. Gardeners could be spreading a lethal frog disease by stocking suburban ponds with exotic species or moving frogspawn around, scientists have warned.A study into the rapid spread of the infectious disease ranavirus – characterised by ulcers, red spots, breakdown of limbs and death – found genetic analysis suggested at least two separate introductions of the disease into the UK.The research, which draws on data reported by the public in a long-running “citizen science” project, showed localised spread of ranavirus which could be down to natural movement by frogs and newts.But the risk of disease was also higher in areas with more people, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B said. The findings point to humans also playing a role, by moving frogspawn and tadpoles or even silt from other ponds or buying animals from commercial aquatic retailers.Outbreaks tended to be recorded in more affluent areas, where people have gardens, and the scientists suggested the fashion for introducing exotic or wild animals into ornamental ponds could be fuelling the spread of the disease.The UK now has a number of non-native amphibian species, such as the alpine newt, which has become established in Britain having been released into gardens and parks.Experts said they did not want people to stop creating garden ponds, which were an important habitat for wildlife, but urged gardeners to limit potential transfer of infected material and garden in ways – such as reducing use of pesticides – that benefited native species. Well-meaning homeowners stocking their garden ponds with frogs, fish or spawn translocated from neighbouring ponds or beyond could inadvertently be fuelling the spread of this serious amphibian diseaseDr Stephen J Price Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.