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Woodland Salamanders are Indicators of Redwood Forest Recovery

Photo of Woodland salamander. Garth Hodgson, USDA Forest ServiceWoodland salamander. Garth Hodgson, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service researchers have found that two common salamander species provide a way of measuring the recovery of previously harvested redwood forests, a unique forest type that contains the world's largest standing terrestrial carbon stocks. Abundance and body condition of the salamanders in a given location corresponded closely with a number of measures of forest recovery, including stand age, tree size, ambient moisture, canopy closure, and litter depth. These results suggest that sampling for salamanders could be a quick and cost-effective method for determining whether a harvested redwood forest is recovering.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Welsh, Hart 
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 541

Summary

Restoration ecology is a relatively new, yet maturing scientific discipline, with forest restoration recognized for its potential to ameliorate global climate change and sustain native biodiversity. However, there is a need to develop monitoring tools that can track the status of recovering forest ecosystems. Forest Service scientists recently published research in the journal Ecosphere that investigated the use of woodland salamanders to document seral recovery in previously harvested redwood forest in northwest California. This research found that the numbers and body condition of two salamander species tracked closely with seral development and related environmental gradients in this unique forest type that contains the world's largest standing terrestrial carbon stocks. They compared salamander numbers and physiological condition on adjacent never harvested old-growth parkland to reference advancement along the suggessional trajectory. In so doing, they demonstrated relationships between salamander counts and body condition with several aspects of seral advancement including stand age, tree size, ambient moisture, canopy closure, and litter depth. Two of the three common salamander species studies provided quantifiable measures of seral recovery of redwood forest at this northern California site.

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