Masters – Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation
Upland Habitats of Marbled Salamanders in the Mount Holyoke Range
SRiberdySRiberdy(at)eco.umass.edu - Hatch Lab
Marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum), as well as other mole salamanders (Ambystoma spp.), are generally uncommon (rare in the case of A. opacum), cryptic and fossorial, with only limited knowledge available on their upland habitat requirements. Most of the past studies on these species focused solely on breeding habitat, with minimal quantitative assessments made on the supporting forested terrestrial habitat, where these species spend the vast majority of their life cycle. Micro-habitat metrics such as course woody, canopy closure, presence of small mammal burrows and leaf litter found to be the primary correlates of high quality terrestrial habitat.
The breeding pool(s) that have been extensively studied usually do have a (at least limited) degree of protection afforded them under the wetlands protection and other regulations; however, the surrounding upland terrestrial habitat receives very limited to no protection. Further understanding on what terrestrial factors are selected by these species will go a long way in shaping effective conservation/protection strategies for these species.
The Holyoke range, (located in Belchertown, Amherst, Granby, Hadley, and South Hadley – western Massachusetts) has been selected as my study area primarily because there is already documented presence of A. opacum at 14 of the seasonal pools with several years of abundance data obtained and research by others at UMASS Amherst. This site is also selected because of it proximity to the campus, low degree of fragmentation, continuous forest cover, relatively consistent surficial geology, high number of vernal pools and known marbled salamander occurrences.
The purpose of my study is to compare several terrestrial, non-breeding, micro-habitat characteristics of one known population of marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) within an unfragmented, un-developed, forested patch. My primary goal is to find correlate(s) of rare ambystomatid presence from the terrestrial habitats around these seasonal pools or identify if any of the measured terrestrial metrics correlate with known abundances already found within these pools.
Last updated August 5, 2010 by