COLUMBIA, Mo. The number of amphibians drastically decreases in forest areas that are clearcut, according to previous studies. A University of Missouri researcher, however, has found that some animals may not be dying. Instead, the Mizzou biologist said some animals may be moving away (possibly to return later) or retreating underground. The finding could have major implications for both the timber industry and the survival of amphibians.
Everyone jumped to the conclusion that the frogs and salamanders were dying after a clearcut had occurred, said Ray Semlitsch, professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. Anecdotal data accumulated through the years indicated there were potentially three things amphibians could do: stay and die, retreat underground or evacuate the site. We have never been sure of how they respond to strong habitat changes, especially behaviorally.
Semlitsch and his graduate students at MU found, during a period of two years, that significantly more salamanders and frogs evacuated clearcut treatments than entered, although the researchers cannot say what portion also may have died or retreated underground. Documenting this evacuation response is important because animals are potentially available later for re-colonization once the forest begins to grow back.
The results of the study present two primary implications for timber management that would benefit amphibians. First, timber harvesters producing clear cuts that are small (within a six-acre area) may improve the chances of amphibians being able to move out of the area until sufficient reforestation occurs. Second, if harvesters leave coarse woody debris (everything over two inches in diameter) on the ground, it will contribute to the amphibians survival by creating food, maintaining moisture and providing shelter.
Semlitsch said amphibians are potential bio-indicators of ecosystem health and are the most threatened ve
|Contact: Bryan E. Jones|
University of Missouri-Columbia