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2001: Impacts of upland development on salamander abundance in downstream forested wetlands.

Kristen Murphy (Biology), Michael Turns (Biology)

We measured salamander abundance and associated habitat variables in six small, riparian forested wetlands surrounding Lake Matoaka. Three wetlands were downstream of uplands dominated by development and three were downstream of uplands dominated by second growth forest. During summer 2001, salamander abundance was determined by weekly surveys of 15 coverboards placed in each wetland. Additionally, water samples were collected during five sampling periods for determination of water temperature, conductivity, pH and dissolved concentrations of nitrate and phosphate. On a single date, soil pH was determined. Over the 10 weeks of study, only two species of salamanders used the coverboards for shelter, the southern two-lined salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) and the three-lined salamander (E. guttolineata). Fewer salamanders were captured in wetlands downstream of upland development, where we measured significantly higher stream conductivity and temperature. Nitrate concentration, however, was significantly lower downstream of upland development. Soil pH, stream pH and phosphate concentrations were not significantly different between wetlands. Salamander abundance was correlated positively with the percent of upland forest area and not with upland watershed size, indicating that upland quality, not quantity, exerts a greater impact on salamander habitat in downstream wetland environments.