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RMRS-RN-41: Response of two terrestrial salamander species to spring burning in the Sierra Nevada, California


Bagne, Karen E.; Purcell, Kathryn L. 2009. Response of two terrestrial salamander species to spring burning in the Sierra Nevada, California. Res. Note. RMRS-RN-41. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 10 p.

Terrestrial salamanders may be vulnerable to prescribed fire applications due to their moist, permeable skin and limited mobility. We present data collected on terrestrial salamander populations in a ponderosa pine-dominated forest in the Sierra Nevada where fire was applied in the spring. Two species, Sierra ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzi platensis) and gregarious slender salamander (Batrachoseps gregarius), were captured under coverboards. Capture rates of ensatinas declined within the first 2 years after burning, but postfire captures were similar to or greater than capture rates on unburned plots. Capture rates of slender salamanders were more variable, but high capture rates on burned plots suggest they persist following fire. We captured fewer small ensatinas within 2 years of burning, but sizes of slender salamanders pre and post burning were similar. Salamanders were captured in both closed and open canopy forests, and presence under individual coverboards was associated with deeper litter and greater canopy closure. Coverboards may be avoided for a year or more by gregarious slender salamanders, and capture rates were highest during winter and early spring. Though sample sizes were small and conclusions should be made with caution, results indicated no strong adverse effects from spring burning. Suitable habitat may have been maintained by the patchy burn pattern characteristic of spring burns.

Keywords: terrestrial salamanders, prescribed fire, Sierra Nevada


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Title: RMRS-RN-41: Response of two terrestrial salamander species to spring burning in the Sierra Nevada, California
Electronic Publish Date: August 31, 2009
Last Update:
August 31, 2009

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