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Scientists Discover Earlier Shift in Peak Salamander Numbers at Woodland Ponds

Photo of A blue-spotted salamander, woodland pond species, in Wisconsin. Dale Higgins, USDA Forest ServiceA blue-spotted salamander, woodland pond species, in Wisconsin. Dale Higgins, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service scientists analyzed salamander monitoring data taken at breeding woodland ponds in the early 1990s to mid-2000s and found that the shift in peak salamander numbers, and site-specific warming air and water temperatures, had occurred two weeks earlier. This earlier shift has not been documented previously in the upper Great Lakes region. Their findings contribute to growing evidence that amphibian populations may be some of the early species responding to changing temperature and precipitation trends by shifting spring movement and reproductive efforts. Awareness of how salamander populations are adapting to these changes will help managers adjust activities during vulnerable periods, and help ensure that monitoring activities do not miss peak salamander numbers in the upper Great Lakes region.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Donner, Deahn 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 505

Summary

Because amphibians rely on temperature and precipitation cues for seasonal movements to and from woodland ponds for breeding, they are vulnerable to changing climate conditions. Comparing salamander monitoring data taken at breeding woodland ponds in the early 1990s to mid-2000s, Forest Service scientists and managers found that these activities occurred almost two weeks earlier in the later decade and correlated with site-specific warming air and water temperatures. Their results contribute to growing evidence that amphibian populations are responding to changing temperature and precipitation trends by shifting spring movement and reproductive efforts. The biological consequences of salamanders moving into ponds earlier in the season are unknown, but may have implications to distribution patterns and reproductive success. Being aware of how salamander populations are adapting to these changes will help managers adjust activities during vulnerable periods, and help ensure monitoring activities do not miss peak salamander numbers in the upper Great Lakes region.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Dale Higgins, Dan Eklund, & Sue Reinecke, Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest, WI
  • Christine A. Ribic & Albert J. Beck, US Geological Survey
  • Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Wisconsin, Madison

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