Thursday, January 3, 2013

Forest management & the salamander

Plethodon albagula. Photo credit Stanley Trauth
Lungless, woodland salamanders depend on forested habitats and are sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture associated with many forestry practices. Additionally, woodland salamanders are territorial and have relatively low vagility, making it unlikely that they can successfully migrate to more favorable habitat when the surrounding forest is harvested. Therefore, Hocking et al. (2013) examine the abundance of the western slimy salamander, Plethodon albagula, in an experimentally manipulated forest in central Missouri. They used artificial cover object searches to compare salamander abundance in three replicate treatments that were clear-cut then burned to reduce maple regeneration, clear-cut and not burned, partially harvested, and un-manipulated control forest. They captured a total of 300 Western slimy salamanders between April 2007 and September 2011. The authors found significantly fewer salamanders in the burn and clear-cut treatments compared with the partial and control treatments. We also found a lower proportion of juveniles and had fewer recaptures in the burn and clear-cut than in the partial and control treatments. Consistent with other studies of woodland salamanders, their results suggest that for at least the first 7 years post-harvest, clear-cutting is detrimental to woodland salamander populations. This initial reduction in abundance combined with the further reduced proportion of juveniles may have longer lasting effects even as the forest regenerates. Finally, the study suggests that timber harvest resulting in limited canopy thinning may be compatible with maintaining populations of Western Slimy Salamanders in Missouri.

Hocking, D. J., Connette, G. M., Conner, C. A., Scheffers, B. R., Pittman, S. E., Peterman, W. E., Semlitsch, R. D.(2013) Effects of experimental forest management on a terrestrial, woodland salamander in Missouri.  Forest Ecology and Management 287:32-37.

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