Numbers and sizes of populations of the European tree frog in The Netherlands have dramatically decreased in the second half of the last century due to extensive habitat destruction and fragmentation. We have studied the genetic structure of a slowly recovering meta-population. Strong genetic differentiation, estimated at eight microsatellite loci, was found between clusters of populations (F (st)-values above 0.2). Within clusters, consisting of ponds within a radius of about 5 km, European tree frog populations were less differentiated (F (st)<0.08) and exact tests showed that most of the ponds within clusters were not significantly differentiated. Although local population sizes have been increasing since 1989, and some new ponds have been colonised in the direct vicinity of ponds that have been populated continuously, little evidence for gene flow between clusters of ponds was found (only one exception). Furthermore, levels of genetic diversity were low compared to populations in comparable areas elsewhere in Europe. Therefore, a continuous conservation effort is needed to prevent any further loss of genetic diversity. The alleviation of important barriers to dispersal between the clusters should be given a high priority for the restoration of the meta-population as a whole.