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School of Environment and Natural Resources


The Importance of Habitat Heterogeneity in Understanding the Effect of Forest Management Practices on Salamanders

Nov 13, 2014, 12:30pm - 1:30pm

A Graduate Defense Seminar will be presented by Lauren H. Blyth, MS in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, on Thursday, November 13 at 12:30 p.m. in 460 Kottman Hall. Lauren will present The Importance of Habitat Heterogeneity in Understanding the Effect of Forest Management Practices on Salamanders.

 It is important to determine how forest management practices affect non-target species such as salamanders. These analyses are commonly done at treatment level and suggest that salamander abundances decline after disturbance. However, salamanders have small home ranges on the scale of within-treatment habitat heterogeneity that is created by background conditions and silvicultural management. A finer scale within-treatment assessment of salamander responses is needed to determine how salamander species associate with the available range of habitats. Oak management regimes utilize prescribed fire that affects the stand unevenly, opening gaps on ridgetops to promote oak regeneration while mesic areas remain largely unaffected. Salamander community data was collected in the unglaciated Appalachian plateau of Ohio three years after a treatment designed to mimic natural heterogeneous disturbance, consisting of thinning in 2000 followed by prescribed fires in 2001, 2005, 2010. Ordination analyses show that a broader range of habitat conditions are found in treatment than control stands, and different salamander species align with the range microhabitats along the habitat gradient. Occupancy analyses were then used to examine habitat relationships of the two most abundant species that represent two different life-history guilds. The common upland breeder, Plethodon cinereus, associated with mesic ecosystems. In contrast, Ambystoma opacum, a pool-breeding species, associated with increased oak composition in the overstory, reflecting a more xeric ecosystem. Therefore, silvicultural management designed to regenerate oaks creates habitat heterogeneity that supports salamander species diversity. One species or group is not sufficient as an indicator representing all salamanders as silviculture may differentially impact species with different habitat associations. Conservation of salamander biodiversity is possible in managed oak forests where heterogeneity provides habitat for a range of species.