COLUMBIA, Mo. Woodland salamanders are small, lungless amphibians that live in moist, forest habitats throughout the U.S. and the world. Salamanders often serve as vital links in forest food chains; their population size and recovery from major disturbances can help predict the health of forest ecosystems. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that salamander population size reflects forest habitat quality and can predict how ecosystems recover from forest logging activity. MU researchers believe these findings can be translated to other species within forest ecosystems throughout the world.
"One of our primary interests is in conservation of amphibians and the habitats that they utilize," said Ray Semlitsch, Curators' Professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science at MU. "We are trying to understand how land use, and particularly forest management, affects the survival of amphibians on the landscape. We also determined that salamander recoveryor the amount of time it takes for salamanders to repopulate a cut forest areacan help forest managers determine appropriate logging schedules."
Semlitsch and fellow researcher, Grant Connette, a graduate student in the Division of Biological Sciences, chose to study a forest area in the southern Appalachian Mountains that has the highest diversity of salamanders in the world. Although seldom seen in the daytime, these animals breathe using their wet skin and forage at night. The researchers conducted surveys of terrestrial salamanders, which don't rely on water or streams, to examine patterns of their abundance relative to timber harvest and species movement behavior. They discovered that forests logged more than 100 years ago may still be affecting salamanders today.
"Most conservation biologists study the pattern of change within a speciesfor example, how they decline or how they recolonize after a major event," Semlitsch said. "Our lab takes i
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University of Missouri-Columbia