FLORIDA — For the past several years, the flatwoods salamander has taken center stage on the Apalachicola National Forest as a multiagency team of wildlife biologists, led by Jana Mott of The Nature Conservancy, implemented various restoration management activities to sustain and rejuvenate this imperiled species. Mott works out of a district office on the forest.
Over the years, the impact of fire suppression and the shift in land use has led to a decline of the lower southeastern coastal plain wetlands habitat which is vital to sustaining these amphibians. Mott and her team focused on methods and strategies to increase the flatwoods salamander population throughout the forest.
“Jana’s accomplishments in isolated wetland restoration have contributed to the success of the biological work occurring on the forest,” said John Dunlap, wildlife biologist for the Apalachicola National Forest. “Her work has led to collaborative efforts involving multiple agencies and positioned the forest to receive several hundred thousand dollars of partnership funding.”
Since serving as a wetland specialist, Mott has secured over $400,000 in funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct habitat management in isolated wetlands for the benefit of the flatwoods salamander, striped newt and other pond breeding amphibians.
Mott’s initiative, dedication and passion for wetland management has resulted in many accomplishments, including receiving the National Rise to the Future Watershed Resources Award in 2016, as a result of her work on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Flatwood Salamander Recovery Team.
“There are hundreds of isolated, seasonal wetlands scattered across the forest,” Mott said. “These wetlands are critical elements of the overall ecosystem and provide potential breeding sites for various rare amphibian species such as the federally threatened flatwoods salamander.”
The Apalachicola National Forest provides the perfect habitat for these wetland dwellers, making it one of the most biodiverse forests in the country. So rare are these amphibians that they are only known to exist in three states: Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.