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Eastern: Region 9

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U.S. Forest Service
Res. Unit NE-4251
201 Holdsworth NRC
Univ. of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003-9285

(413) 545-0357

Fax: 413-545-1860

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Research Projects

Wildlife ecology and habitat research | Atlantic salmon habitat research |
Ecology of woodland vernal pools


Ecology of woodland vernal pools

Woodland vernal pools are ephemeral aquatic habitats in upland forest environments. While their presence varies from days to weeks to months, their contribution to the faunal diversity of forests is disaproportionately large compared to their temporal and spatial presence. Several amphibian and macroinvertebrate species use these habitats exclusively for breeding and larval development. Many additional faunal species, including Myotis bats, opportunistically use the pools as productive foraging sites.


A series of integrated studies on individual pool dynamics, landscape-level effects on faunal populations, and effects of past land use on woodland vernal pool faunal composition will lead to more complete knowledge of pool dynamics and wildlife habitat values.


  • A sample of woodland vernal pools were selected within pond size, isolation, and land-use history classes. Surveys sample physical and vegetative attributes as well as larval amphibians and macroinvertebrates are sampled in each pool. The results are useful to assess the relative effects of pool size, isolation, and past land use on vernal pool fauna and so contribute to forest management guidelines.
  • Massachusetts enforces Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the protection of woodland vernal pools during forestry operation. The recommended practices were developed based on the best knowledge and science available at the time. The effectiveness of the BMPs in protecting pools as amphibian breeding sites is being assessed. Egg mass counts and larval surveys for wood frog and spotted salamander breeding efforts have been conducted in a sample of pools prior to timber havests. The surveys will continue after harvests have occurred to test the effectiveness of the BMPs.
  • Acoustic bat surveys are conducted at woodland vernal pools, other wetland and aquatic habitats, and in upland forest, to determine the levels and patterns of bat foraging activity in major habitats of a southern New England forest landscape. Mist net trapping and radio telemetry will be used to determine the impacts of sustainable forest management on bat habitat use.


Brooks, R.T. 2005. A review of basin morphology and pool hydrology of isolated ponded wetlands: implications for seasonal forest pools of the northeastern United States. Wetlands Ecology and Management 13:335-348.

Brooks, R.T. 2000. Annual and seasonal variation and the effects of hydroperiod on benthic macroinvertebrates of seasonal forest ponds in central Massachusetts, USA. Wetlands 20:707-715.

Brooks, R.T. 2004. Weather-related effects on woodland vernal pool hydrology and hydroperiod. Wetlands 24:104-114.

Brooks, R.T., et al. 1998. An inventory of seasonal forest pools on the Quabbin Reservoir watershed, Massachusetts. Northeastern Naturalist 5:219-230.

Brooks, R.T., and K.L. Doyle. 2001. Small mammal diversity and abundance in vernal pool habitat. Northeastern Naturalist 8:137-148.

Brooks, R.T., and M. Hayashi. 2002. Depth-area-volume and hydroperiod relationships of ephemeral ("vernal") forest pools in southern New England. Wetlands 22:247-255.


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